GNS Science and the University of Auckland are studying the risk of Auckland being devastated by one of its 50 volcanoes.
The last eruption was about 600 years ago, but scientists have limited knowledge of when another is likely.
The study will use computer technology and new geological techniques.
Researchers say a volcano could erupt anywhere in Auckland and they want to know what the effects of lava flows, hot ash and gas avalanches might be.
They hope the information can be used in civil engineering, planning and emergency management.