Four out of five Tauranga people are not prepared for a natural disaster, according to a Bay of Plenty Times survey.
Of the 250 people surveyed, only 20 per cent said they had an evacuation plan in place and just 29 per cent had put together a survival kit.
Most feared a tsunami (57 per cent) or an earthquake (31 per cent), with floods and eruptions being less of a perceived threat (14 and 13 per cent, respectively).
The Bay of Plenty Times carried out the survey following the release of maps this week by the Bay's emergency management group showing the devastating reach of a large-scale tsunami in the region.
Based on tsunami that have hit the Western Bay's coastline during the past 4000 years, the maps showed that 19,000 homes and 2000 commercial properties would be affected if an "extreme" (6.75m surge) tsunami hit, forcing 35,000 people to flee for their lives.
Emergency manager group controller Warwick Murray said people in the Bay were ill prepared and there was "still a long way to go".
"We can't afford to be complacent and we want to see a significant improvement," he added.
"The purpose of releasing the maps was not to scare people but to raise awareness ... it's one of those things that people don't really want to think about but it's really important that we do."
Mr Murray said while there were strategies in place to predict potential tsunami threats, the region did not have a "definitive" evacuation plan.
The current procedure was to alert people through the media, predominantly radio, to go to the nearest highest ground.
If there was no high ground to go to, then people should move further inland.
Proposals for an early warning system along the coast were to be put before the Tauranga City Council by November.
A total of $1.4m has been budgeted in Environment Bay of Plenty's 10 Year Plan for this system.
Civil Defence Emergency Management has calculated there is a one in 682 probability of a worst-case (4m) tsunami hitting the Bay's coastline in any one year.
Geological records show that the last tsunami to top 5m happened about 650 years ago, with the previous tsunami of that scale about 1900 years earlier. Smaller tsunami of between 1m and 3m have been recorded between 1868 and 1960.
There are a number of local and regional sources that could result in a tsunami. These include volcanism in the Tonga/Kermadec system, landslides in the Hikurangi Trough, eruption of Mayor Island, fault movement within the offshore Taupo Volcanic Zone and slope failures on White and Whale Islands.
A tsunami is one of four natural hazards identified by Civil Defence as being most likely to result in a state of emergency being declared in the Bay of Plenty, the other three being an earthquake, volcanic eruption or flood.
The Bay of Plenty is one of the most seismically active areas in New Zealand.
An earthquake that was felt widely but caused only minor damage could be expected every 10 years, a moderate to strong earthquake every 42 years and an earthquake causing serious damage every 150-180 years.
The Taupo Volcanic Zone, that spans from Mt Ruapehu to White Island, also put Bay people in danger of volcanic eruptions, which were likely to affect the population within any one person's lifetime.
Mr Murray said in terms of frequency, flooding was the most likely natural disaster to affect the region.
"You have to look at a combination of severity and likelihood. Generally it (flooding) doesn't have a massive impact on infrastructure across the region.
"The potential impact of a volcanic eruption is huge but the likelihood of that happening tomorrow is slim."