An international team of researchers have started studying the active zone off the North Island's East Coast which they say could trigger a mega-quake or tsunami.
The scientists are focusing on the Hikurangi subduction zone - a massive fault running through the centre of New Zealand from Marlborough to the east coast of the North Island.
"We're hoping it'll tell us whether or not the fault up here will move in together with a large fault, say under Wellington, that could move at the same time as the faults up here.
"That would be a really large earthquake which would be unfortunate," Dr Martha Savage from Victoria University told 1NEWS.
The scientists believe the subduction zone is capable of generating a "megathrust" quake of over eight on the Richter scale, or a tsunami similar to ones seen in Japan.
Special monitoring equipment has been shipped to New Zealand, with two hundred seismometers buried along the east coast.
NIWA's research ship, the Tangaroa, is heading out from Wellington tomorrow to deploy more of the seismometers over the next month.
"It's not possible with this kind of data to predict earthquakes, but we can learn what kind of geological factors might actually influence the slip behaviour," Harm Van Avendonk of Texas University said.
Scientists will work on the project for at least a year as the information comes in, hoping the subduction zone will remain relatively quiet in the meantime.