Tectonic evolution of the active Hikurangi subduction margin, New Zealand, since the Oligocene

  • Nicol A
  • Mazengarb C
  • Chanier F
 et al. 
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Deformation across the active Hikurangi subduction margin, New Zealand, including shortening, extension, vertical-axis rotations, and strike-slip faulting in the upper plate, has been estimated for the last ∼24 Myr using margin-normal seismic reflection lines and cross sections, strike-slip fault displacements, paleomagnetic declinations, bending of Mesozoic terranes, and seafloor spreading information. Post-Oligocene shortening in the upper plate increased southward, reaching a maximum rate of 3–8 mm/year in the southern North Island. Upper plate shortening is a small proportion of the rate of plate convergence, most of which (>80%) accrued on the subduction thrust. The uniformity of these shortening rates is consistent with the near-constant rate of displacement transfer (averaged over ≥5 Myr) from the subduction thrust into the upper plate. In contrast, the rates of clockwise vertical-axis rotations of the eastern Hikurangi Margin were temporally variable, with ∼3°/Myr since 10 Ma and ∼0°–1°/Myr prior to 10 Ma. Post 10 Ma, the rates of rotation decreased westward from the subduction thrust, which resulted in the bending of the North Island about an axis at the southern termination of subduction. With rotation of the margin and southward migration of the Pacific Plate Euler poles, the component of the margin-parallel relative plate motion increased to the present. Plate convergence dominated the Hikurangi Margin before ca. 15 Ma, with the rate of margin-parallel motion increasing markedly since 10 Ma. Vertical-axis rotations could accommodate all margin-parallel motion before 1–2 Ma, eliminating the requirement for large strike-slip displacements (for example, >50 km) in the upper plate since the Oligocene.

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