Wairarapa Fault

Map of the North Island Fault System, New Zealand showing the Wairarapa Fault

The Wairarapa Fault is an active seismic fault in the southern part of the North Island of New Zealand. It is a dextral (right lateral) strike-slip fault with a component of uplift to the northwest as expressed by the Rimutaka Range. It forms part of the North Island Fault System, which accommodates the transfer of displacement along the oblique convergent boundary between the Indo-Australian Plate and Pacific Plate.[1]


The Wairarapa Fault continues south of Lake Wairarapa as the Wharekauhau thrust, which can be traced on the seabed in the Cook Strait for about 30 km with a possible further continuation on a fault strand lying to the northwest. These faults segments are considered likely to be the active traces of the southern Wairarapa Fault.[2] At its northeastern end the fault terminates near Mauriceville, with the displacement apparently continued on the Pa Valley and Alfredton Faults.[3]


Rupture along the Wairarapa Fault and Wharekauhau thrust was responsible for the 1855 Wairarapa earthquake, there is also evidence from trenching that the rupture continued onto the Alfredton Fault.[3][4] The uplifted beach ridges of Turakirae Head provide a proxy record of prehistoric earthquakes. This record has been checked by trenching across parts of the Wairarapa Fault. The trenching recorded five surface rupturing events since about 5,500 years BP, the last of which is the 1855 earthquake and two of which are not recorded by beach ridges. Together the observations give a mean recurrence interval of about 1,200 years.[5]


  1. Mouslopoulou, V.; Nicol, A.; Little, T.A.; Begg J.A. (2009). "Palaeoearthquake surface rupture in a transition zone from strike-slip to oblique-normal slip and its implications to seismic hazard, North Island Fault System, New Zealand". In Reicherter K., Michetti A.M. & Silva P.G. Palaeoseismology: historical and prehistorical records of earthquake ground effects for seismic hazard assessment. Special Publications. 316. London: Geological Society. pp. 269–292. ISBN 978-1-86239-276-2. Retrieved 3 October 2010.
  2. Barnes, P.M. "The southern end of the Wairarapa Fault, and surrounding structures in Cook Strait". In Townend J., Langridge R. & Jones A. The 1855 Wairarapa Earthquake Symposium: 150 years of thinking about magnitude 8+ earthquakes and seismic hazard in New Zealand (PDF). Greater Wellington Regional Council. pp. 66–€“71. ISBN 0-909016-87-9. C1 control character in |pages= at position 4 (help)
  3. 1 2 Schermer, E.R.; Van Dissen R., Berryman K.R., Kelsey H.M.& Cashman S.M. (2004). "Active faults, paleoseismology, and historical fault rupture in northern Wairarapa, North Island, New Zealand" (PDF). New Zealand Journal of Geology & Geophysics. 47: 101–122. doi:10.1080/00288306.2004.9515040. Retrieved 5 October 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)
  4. Rodgers, D.W.; Little T.A. (2006). "World's largest coseismic strike-slip offset: The 1855 rupture of the Wairarapa Fault, New Zealand, and implications for displacement/length scaling of continental earthquakes" (PDF). Journal of Geophysical Research. 111 (B12408). Bibcode:2006JGRB..11112408R. doi:10.1029/2005JB004065. Retrieved 5 October 2010.
  5. Van Dissen, R.; Berryman K., King A., Webb T., Brackley H., Barnes P., Beavan J., Benites R., Barker P., Carne R., Cochran U., Dellow G., Fry B., Hemphill-Haley M., Francois-Holden C., Lamarche G., Langridge R., Litchfield N., Little T., McVerry G., Ninis D., Palmer N., Perrin N., Pondard N., Semmens S., Stephenson W., Robinson R., Villamor P., Wallace L. & Wilson K. (2009). "It's Our Fault: Better Defining the Earthquake Risk in Wellington - Results to Date & a Look to the Future" (PDF). NZEE Conference Proceedings. Retrieved 6 October 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)

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