The National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research plans to study the waves around New Zealand, which it says are some of the biggest and wildest on the planet.
NIWA says extensive modelling will help provide a picture of how damaging waves and storm surges will be in future.
It wants to establish how the size of the waves is changing, so councils know the areas where it is unwise to build.
The longest set of records goes back only 15 years, so the agency will do some modelling for the years before that.
NIWA says it will simulate wave development up to the end of the century and will take climate change into account.