1931 Hawke’s Bay Earthquake Exhibition

1 Tennyson St, Napier

“The outline of the hill turned into a giant serpent as it heaved up and down. The shock wave swept across it, creating a monster crossing the skyline.” - NG Bailey

At 10:47am on 3 February 1931, a devastating earthquake struck Hawke’s Bay. In that moment it seemed the end of the world had come.

People were thrown off their feet; buildings shuddered and collapsed as the ground pitched violently. In central Napier, fires broke out within minutes and rushed through the city. Amidst the burning, falling buildings, the bright blue sky of a summer’s day was obscured by smoke and dust.

People could only watch as their home was destroyed around them. In desperation the injured screamed for help, others ran for the safety of the beach, or home to find their families.

In Hawke’s Bay, time from then on would always be divided into before and after the earthquake. The high number of casualties and the challenge of rehabilitation and reconstruction in the middle of the Depression tested the nation, the brunt of the burden borne by every person in Hawke’s Bay who strove to reclaim their home amid the trauma of extreme loss.

Objects and archives in the MTG collections are rich with memory of the horror of that day, and of its aftermath. Visiting this exhibition is a must for those who seek to understand a place shaped by destruction on a scale unparalleled in New Zealand, of a story that has shaped a visible scar on Hawke’s Bay, and of the invisible scars - held in the memories of its places and people, still vivid over 80 years on.

The 'Survivors' Stories' film also plays throughout the day, continuously and plays for 35 minutes. The film contains the personal accounts from Hana Cotter, Audrey McKelvie, Jim Clayton, and Lauris Edmond as they describe the 1931 Napier Earthquake.

Supported by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council.


Tue 17th Dec 2019, 9:30am

Wed 18th Dec 2019, 9:30am

Thu 19th Dec 2019, 9:30am

Fri 20th Dec 2019, 9:30am

Sat 21st Dec 2019, 9:30am

Sun 22nd Dec 2019, 9:30am

Mon 23rd Dec 2019, 9:30am

Tue 24th Dec 2019, 9:30am

Thu 26th Dec 2019, 9:30am

Fri 27th Dec 2019, 9:30am

Sat 28th Dec 2019, 9:30am

Sun 29th Dec 2019, 9:30am

Mon 30th Dec 2019, 9:30am

Tue 31st Dec 2019, 9:30am

Wed 1st Jan 2020, 9:30am


MTG Hawke's Bay, Napier, Hawke's Bay / Gisborne

1 Tennyson St, Napier