Civil Defence in Wellington is planning for mass shelters to house tens of thousands of people in the event of a large earthquake.
Up to 130,000 people will need accommodation for between one day and a week if a big quake hits the capital.
GNS social scientist Kim Wright says with many of Wellington's highways, train routes and the airport expected to be badly damaged, most people will have to evacuate within the region.
Ms Wright says people in Wellington will not be able to leave the region as easily as they did in Christchurch, where the airport reopened quickly and main roads were not badly damaged.
The mass sheltering is just a short term answer for evacuees and officials still need to come up with a plan for medium to long term accommodation, she says.