Probabilistic seismic hazard analysis requires a seismicity rate model, or in other words, a forecast of earthquake rates. In the New Zealand National Seismic Hazard Model 2022, the seismicity rate model is constructed through independent forecasts of earthquakes on mapped faults and earthquakes distributed over cells in a spatial grid. Here, we explore the seismicity rate model for upper plate (hypocenter ≥ 40 km) events, to investigate the shape of magnitude–frequency distributions (MFDs) considering events nucleating (or for which the hypocenters are located) within individual fault zone. We find that more than 80% of the fault zones have MFDs that are better described by a Gutenberg–Richter (GR) distribution, instead of a characteristic distribution (i.e., rates of larger magnitudes much higher than the GR trend). Furthermore, the MFD classifications are neither influenced by time‐dependent (and time‐independent) considerations nor directly affected by the size (or area) of the fault zones. Fault zones with faster slip rates (>20 mm/yr) exhibit characteristic MFDs, whereas those with slower slip rates may or may not. Although multifault ruptures are prevalent in the characteristic distributions, large maximum magnitude (Mw >8.0) plays a pivotal role producing a characteristic MFD. On the other hand, physically unconnected multifault ruptures (i.e., involving rupture jumps ≥ 10 km) are mostly observed with GR distributions.

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