Active tectonics west of New Zealand’s Alpine Fault: South Westland Fault Zone activity shows Australian Plate instability
De Pascale, G. P., Chandler-Yates, N., Dela Pena, F., Wilson, P., May, E., Twiss, A., and Cheng, C., 2016: Geophysical Research Letters, v. 43, no. 7, p. 3120-3125.
The 300 km long South Westland Fault Zone (SWFZ) is within the footwall of the Central Alpine Fault (<20 km away) and has 3500m of dip-slip displacement, but it has been unknown if the fault is active. Here the first evidence for SWFZ thrust faulting in the “stable” Australian Plate is shown with cumulative dip-slip displacements up to 5.9 m (with 3 m throw) on Pleistocene and Holocene sediments and gentle hanging wall anticlinal folding. Cone penetration test (CPT) stratigraphy shows repeated sequences within the fault scarp (consistent with thrusting). Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating constrains the most recent rupture post-12.1 +/- 1.7 ka with evidence for three to four events during earthquakes of at least M(w)6.8. This study shows significant deformation is accommodated on poorly characterized Australian Plate structures northwest of the Alpine Fault and demonstrates that major active and seismogenic structures remain uncharacterized in densely forested regions on Earth.