3D Geometry of Active Shortening, Uplift and Subsidence West of the Alpine Fault (South Island, New Zealand)

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Francesca Ghisetti, TerraGeologica, Christchurch, New Zealand, Richard H Sibson, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand and Ian J Hamling, GNS Science, Lower Hutt, New Zealand
The Alpine Fault is the principal component of the transform boundary between the Australian and Pacific plates across the South Island of New Zealand, linking the opposite dipping Hikurangi and Puysegur subduction zones. In the northern South Island, the transition from the subducted W-dipping Pacific slab of the Hikurangi margin to the intra-continental transform margin is defined by earthquake foci from 350 to 100 km deep. West of the Alpine Fault the Australian crust above the slab has been incorporated into the collisional plate boundary and uplifted in a compressional belt up to 100 km wide.

Retro-deformation and back-stripping of 10 regional transects utilising surface geology, seismic reflection lines and exploration wells define the progressive deformation of the Australian crust since 35 Ma along the collisional margin. The reconstructed geometry of faulted basement blocks is tied to localisation and evolution of overlying sedimentary basins, coeval with displacement on the Alpine Fault. Amounts of shortening, uplift and subsidence and fault activity are heterogeneous in space and time across the margin, and are controlled by compressional reactivation of inherited high-angle, N-S Paleogene normal faults oblique to the margin. However, significant differences also occur along the strike of the collisional margin, with major contrasts in uplift and subsidence north and south of lat. 41°.7, i.e. the region overlying the southern termination of the Hikurangi slab. These differences are highlighted by present day hydrographic anomalies in the Buller region, and by the pattern of filtered topography at > 75 km wavelength.

Our data show that the 3D geometry of the Australian plate cannot be entirely attributed to inherited crustal heterogeneity of a flexured “retro-foreland” domain in the footwall of the Alpine Fault, and suggest the need of deeper dynamic interaction between the Pacific and Australian lithosphere along the subduction-collision margin.