A team of scientists, led by a Melbourne professor, has published research that shows where giant earthquakes are most likely to strike.

Monash University Professor Wouter Schellart says earthquakes mostly occur at the boundaries of tectonic plates when they rub together. But giant quakes happen only in “subduction zones”, where one plate sinks below another into the earth’s interior.

A global map has been created that highlights these, including an area off the east coast of New Zealand.

“These big earthquakes are most dangerous and destructive,” Prof Schellart told AAP.

“We have built a global map which shows which plate boundaries are most likely to produce these massive earthquakes and this gives seismologists an idea of where they may occur.”

Prof Schellart said the research can be used by engineers to inform them of where to avoid building homes and buildings.

The zones where earthquakes are likely to occur are located in Indonesia, the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and Greece.  Dr Schellart and University of Aberdeen Professor Nick Rawlinson have been working on the research since 2009.

In 2004, a giant earthquake off Sumatra, Indonesia, triggered a tsunami which killed more than 200,000 people.  Earthquakes mostly occur at the boundaries of tectonic plates when they rub together, Dr Schellart said.