The Plate Tectonics Of New Zealand

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Study of the plate tectonics of New Zealand has been undertaken since the early 1800s, however the most notable discovery regarding the plate tectonic setting was made in the 1940s by Harold Wellman, who discovered the Alpine Fault. Since then, our knowledge of the plate tectonic setting of New Zealand has been vastly expanded, leading to our present day understanding of the topic. A large part of our present day knowledge of the plate tectonic setting has been gained through the study of active faulting - the visible and measurable signs of fault line activity and their ruptures. Our current understanding is that the country sits on the boundary of the Australian and the Pacific plate. The nature of this boundary changes depending on the area of the country studied, from strike-slip to convergent. Evidence from active faulting can be used to prove the nature of this boundary on land by studying both the North and South Island Fault Systems. South Island Fault System The Alpine Fault is a clear starting point for analysis of the plate tectonic setting of NZ. It is the most visually obvious sign of tectonic activity in NZ as it is responsible for the creation of the Southern Alps, a 500 kilometre long chain of mountains which stretch from the Nelson Lakes to Milford. These mountains sit to the eastern side of the fault as they are created by the Australian plate acting as a rigid indentor, buckling the weaker crust of the Pacific plate (Sutherland et al., 2000, 2009 as cited
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