Gisborne (North Island, NZ) is affected by rainfall-induced landslides, earthquakes and tsunami, as well as mud volcanoes (MVs). The latter form via upward mobilization of Eocene–age sediments, and have not been studied from an engineering geological standpoint, so the 15 December 2018 Waimata Valley MV eruption provided a unique opportunity. The event erupted c. 16 900 m3 of mud, forming an elevated vent area, and three mudflows propagating north, east and south. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) identified smectite as the dominant clay in the Sr-rich mud, and Atterberg limits indicate high plasticity. In-situ testing using dynamic cone penetrometer and shear vane (3–168 kPa) revealed wide variability in strength properties with depth, while ring shear values are 11.3–13.5°. A fault extends NW beneath the Waimata Valley MV, coinciding with the pre-existing Arakihi Road MV. The Waimata Valley MV area was subject to uplift and cracking during the September 2016 Te Araroa earthquake (Mw7.1), which caused increased activity at pre-existing mud volcanoes at that time. Geodetic data for the Gisborne district shows an uplift phase culminating around the December 15 2018 MV eruption, followed by the commencement of a Hikurangi subduction zone ‘slow slip event’. Nevertheless, relationships between tectonics and MV eruptions remain equivocal.