Skip to content

Earthquake hazard

Key Finding

While earthquakes pose a much lower threat to Queensland communities than many other populated regions of the world, the state’s south-east is the most at risk of experiencing an earthquake.

Earthquakes pose a much lower threat to Queensland communities than many other populated regions of the world.

The most recent notable earthquake in Queensland was a moderate magnitude 5.2 at Eidsvold in 2015. Aftershocks were recorded 4 years later.

The largest recorded Queensland earthquake, a magnitude 6.05, occurred off the coast of Gladstone in 1918. With an estimated felt area exceeding 3 million square kilometres extending from Northern New South Wales (NSW) to Mackay, and as far inland as Roma. A recurrence of this earthquake has the potential to cause significant damage and economic consequences.

A magnitude 5.3 earthquake in Newcastle NSW in December 1989 had a felt radius of 800km, 13 lives were lost and thousands of homes and buildings were damaged.

The highest risk area in Queensland is the south-east, from Gladstone in the north to Logan and Scenic Rim in the south, and from the coast across to the Burnett and Western Downs regions. This zone has a 17% probability of experiencing a Newcastle-style of event and a 3% chance of a Gladstone-like earthquake, once every 100 years. This considers a range of factors including probability of occurrence, as well as the density of population, infrastructure, and economic activity.

The relative youth of our building stock, combined with effective building codes and standards, greatly reduces the likelihood of widespread destruction. However, localised earthquake damage may still be severe or fatal within an affected community.

All areas of Queensland should be prepared for sudden onset earthquake impact.

More information:

Relevant Sustainable Development Goals’ targets

Locations of Notable Queensland Earthquakes of Magnitude 5.0 or Greater
Date Location Magnitude Depth
August 2016 Offshore north east of Bowen 5.8 7km
August 2015 Offshore east of Fraser Island 5.3 13km
July 2015 Offshore east of Fraser Island 5.4 13km
February 2015 Eidsvold, Bundaberg 5.2 13km
July 2011 Bowen, Mackay 5.3 7km
November 1978 Herron Island, Yeppoon 5.2 12km
December 1974 Offshore of Mackay 5.1 6km
June 1965 Tarewinnabar, Warwick 5.3 28km
June 1918 Lady Elliot Island, Gladstone 6.0 15km
Locations of notable Queensland earthquakes of magnitude 5.0 or greater. Source: State Natural Hazard Risk Assessment 2017