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Hawke's Bay Earthquake
3 February 1931



Left: Hastings, probably Heretaunga Street, looking towards Havelock North.

Hastings Post Office before the 1931 earthquake


Left: Hastings Post Office

 Hastings Post Office after the quake, some of damaged already cleared.








Left: The Post Office after the 'quake, some of damage already cleared away.

More Photos from our Archives

Album 1    Album 2

See also Titiromai - Looking at us!  HB Cultural Trust's image collection website. 

Tuesday 3 February 1931  - a  typical calm hot Hawke's Bay summer day.  At almost 10:47am Hawke's Bay was devastated by two violent shocks in quick succession, followed for days by after shocks. The earthquake of magnitude 7.8* was recorded all around the world.

The town centres of Napier and Hastings were the worst affected, with masonry buildings and brick facades collapsing.  Wooden buildings were less damaged but fire destroyed many of these.  The fires were worst in Napier where no water was available as the water supply system was destroyed.  In Hastings most fires were contained, however the Grand Hotel, already badly damaged, caught fire.

There were many casualties - 256 were killed, 2 missing, over 400 hospitalised with serious injuries. The Nurses Home on the hill in Napier collapsed, killing nurses who were sleeping after night duty.  There were sad stories of people being buried alive.   

For casualty list - see Appendix in The shock of '31 : the Hawke's Bay earthquake / by Geoff Conly. 

See Christchurch City Library Factsheet  NZ Disasters: Earthquake: Napier  for more details.

  Hastings Memorial

In 1995 Hastings District Council installed copper plaques on the Hastings Clock Tower engraved with the names of those who lost their lives in the Hastings District - 93 people identified.  It also includes a number who were unable to be identified.

 is inscribed with the words “Their sun went down before it was noon.”
There is also a memorial common grave for the victims at the Hastings Cemetery.  

  *Quake : Hawke's Bay 1931 / Matthew Wright.

 In our Libraries


 Internet  Links

"West to the Annie": Renata Kawepo's Hawkes Bay legacy / by the RD9 Historical Committee ; edited by Tony Robinson.  2002
Has Appendix with an eyewitness account "The day of the earthquake" by Nola McAulay.

Quake : Hawke's Bay 1931 / Matthew Wright.

The Hawke's Bay earthquake : New Zealand's greatest natural disaster / Robert McGregor. 1998

Earthquakes / Anna Rogers ; research by Geoff Conly.  1996.

Art deco city [videorecording] : the art deco architecture of Napier, New Zealand / producers, Murray and Judi Sawyer.
1995. Includes details of the 1931 earthquake.

The Napier earthquake / Kevin Boon. c1990.

The great quake / Robert McGregor, text ; Peter Hallett, contemporary photographs.

Darkest days / by Bruce Morris. 1987.

New Zealand's darkest days / by Bruce Morris.

Hawke's Bay "before" and "after" : the great earthquake of 1931 : an historical record

1931-1981 : out of the ruins : drawings and photographs of earthquake damage and 50 years after / [drawings and text by Colin B. Wilkinson.  c1980

The shock of '31 : the Hawke's Bay earthquake / by Geoff Conly. 1980.

Earthquake, Napier, 1931

The full story of the great earthquake disaster at Hawke's Bay, New Zealand, on 3rd February, 1931  Published as The Weekender special overseas edition, February 25, 1931. (Reference only)

Hawke's Bay Earthquake, 1931 12 in Folder
Photos (Reference only)

Letter to Kit / Bill Ashcroft and Mr. Ashcroft Senior.  Two letters describing personal experiences of the Napier earthquake (Reference only).




General & Statistical Information

Art Deco Napier: Earthquake page

Titiromai - Looking at us!  HB Cultural Trust's image collection website.

History of Ahuriri
Napier City Council history page.

Kiwi Herald report

NZ Disasters: Earthquake: Napier
Christchurch City Library Factsheet.

Extract from a Special Edition of "The Weekender" dated 12 March 1931

HB Presbytery records
Records damage to Presbyterian churches in HB and lost records.


Earthquake postcards
Jane Resture's collection of postcards showing damage to Napier.

Hastings Street Napier - image 1
Hastings Street Napier - image 2
Hastings Street Napier - image 3
Christchurch City Library photograph collection.


NZ Plate Tectonics - why NZ landscapes look the way they do
Don't be put off by the title - this site is a treasure of beautiful photos and easy to understand information and diagrams showing how NZ is being formed.

Excellent background to cause and effect of the '31 earthquake. A panoramic photograph graphically shows the uplift of the land behind Ahuriri - Plate Tectonics - part 4


Hastings and Napier were rebuilt in two popular architectural styles at the time, with Art Deco and Spanish Mission buildings in both cities.

Hastings - Spanish Mission style

Earthquake Hazard Centre - a huge body of knowledge is now available for earthquake resistant building.

Other earthquake links

GeoNet - NZ Earthquake Commission's monitoring system for earthquakes, volcanic activity etc.

GeoNet's recent New Zealand earthquakes

Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management



More Photos from our Archives

Album 1    Album 2



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