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"New Zealand's position on the boundary of the Australian and Pacific plates is the reason for the large number of earthquakes we witness. Underneath New Zealand these two huge plates are grinding together in three distinct ways.
To the east of the North Island the Pacific plate is being forced under the Australian plate. Under the South Island the two plates push past each other sideways, and to the south of New Zealand the Australian plate is being forced under the Pacific plate.
The Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences records about 14,000 earthquakes in and around New Zealand each year. Most are small, but between 100 and 150 are big enough to be felt. The Institute records these earthquakes on a nationwide network of instruments called seismographs."
The City (Newcastle/Lake Macquarie) I live in has a falut line offshore that was not really 'discovered' until 1989 when an earthquake killed 14 people. I was living in Sydney at the time and we only received a tremor.
The City remains a bit sensitive to earthquakes - shortly after we moved there was a tremor one evening about 9.00 pm - we didn't immediately know what had happened, thinking a truck may have had an accident in our street, we looked outside and the whole neighbouhood was on the street. Some people were quite emotional. No damage that time though.