New Zealand South Island Geophysical Transect:
Continent-Continent Collision at the Pacific/Australian Plate Boundary

NSF Continental Dynamics & NZ Science Foundation
1994 - 2004

The Pacific/Australian transform plate boundary in South Island, New Zealand, is characterized by active oblique continent-continent collision with an associated Southern Alps orogen that exhibits both high exhumation rates and rapid strike-slip movement. Beginning in the 1990s, this system was the focus of a decade-long collaborative USA-New Zealand multi-disciplinary study to understand lithospheric structure and processes of transpression.
Substantial field observation experiments were carried out in seismic reflection, explosion refraction, onshore-offshore wide-angle reflection/refraction, regional and teleseismic passive seismology, magnetotellurics, laboratory petrophysics, gravity, regional geological investigations, and rheological analyses.
More than fifty scientists and students from both nations participated in the combined set of studies that have led to over forty-five journal publications, an AGU Monograph, and a dozen graduate theses.


  • Okaya, D., T. Stern, and F. Davey, editors, 2007, A continental plate boundary: tectonics of South Island, New Zealand, AGU Geophysical Monograph 175, 369 p.

    This monograph contains seventeen papers. See this Table of Contents for titles (includes a link to download the book's supplemental material (monograph's CD-ROM).

  • Okaya, D., T. Stern, F. Davey, S. Henrys, and S. Cox, 2007, Continent-continent collision at the Pacific/Indo-Australian plate boundary: background, motivation, and principal results, in Okaya, D., T. Stern, and F. Davey, A continental plate boundary: tectonics of South Island, New Zealand, AGU Geophysical Monograph 175, 1-18.

  • Christensen, N.I., and Okaya, D., 2007, Compressional and shear wave velocities in South Island NZ rocks and their application to the interpretation of seismological models of the New Zealand crust, in Okaya, D., T. Stern, and F. Davey, A continental plate boundary: tectonics of South Island, New Zealand, AGU Geophysical Monograph 175, 125-158.

  • Stern, T.A., Okaya, D., Kleffmann, S., Scherwath, M., Henrys, S., and Davey, F., 2007, Geophysical exploration of the Alpine fault zone, in Okaya, D., T. Stern, and F. Davey, A continental plate boundary: tectonics of South Island, New Zealand, AGU Geophysical Monograph 175, 209-236.

  • Wu., F., Davey, F., and Okaya, D., 2007, Taiwan and South Island, New Zealand - a comparison of continental collisional orogenies, in Okaya, D., T. Stern, and F. Davey, A continental plate boundary: tectonics of South Island, New Zealand, AGU Geophysical Monograph 175, 331-348.

  • Melhuish, A., Holbrook, W.S., Davey, F., Okaya, D., and Stern, T., 2005, Crustal and upper mantle seismic structure of the Australian plate, South Island, New Zealand, Tectonophysics, 395, 113-135.

  • Henrys, S.A., Woodward, D.J., Okaya, D., and Yu, J., 2004, Mapping the Moho beneath the Southern Alps continent-continent collision, New Zealand, using wide-angle reflections, Geophys. Res. Letts. 31, L17602, doi:10.1029/2004GL020561.

  • Van Avendonk, H.J.A., Holbrook, W.S., Okaya, D., Austin, J.K., Davey, F., Stern, T., 2004, Continental crust under compression: A seismic refraction study of South Island Geophysical Transect I, South Island, New Zealand, J. Geophys. Res., 109, B06302, 10.1029/ 2003JB002790.

  • Okaya, D., Stern, T., Holbrook, S., van Avendonk, H., Davey, F., and Henrys, S., 2003, Imaging a plate boundary using double-sided onshore-offshore seismic profiling, Leading Edge, 22, 256-260.

  • Long, D.T., Cox, S.C., Bannister, S., Gerstenberger, M.C., and Okaya, D., 2003, Upper crustal structure beneath the eastern Southern Alps and the Mackenzie basin, New Zealand, derived from seismic reflection data, New Zeal. Jour. Geol. & Geophys.,46,21-39.

  • Scherwath, M., Stern, T., Davey, F., Okaya, D., Holbrook, W.S., Davies, R., and Kleffmann, S., 2003, Lithospheric structure across oblique continental collision in New Zealand from wide-angle P-wave modeling, J. Geophys. Res., 108, 2566, doi:10.1029/2002JB002286.

  • Okaya, D., Henrys, S., and Stern, T., 2002, "Super-gathers" across the South Island of New Zealand: double-sided onshore-offshore seismic imaging of a plate boundary, Tectonophysics, 355, 247-263.

  • Stern, T., Okaya, D., and Scherwath, M., 2002, Structure and strength of a continental transform from onshore-offshore seismic profiling of South Island, New Zealand, Earth Planets Space, 54, 1011-1019.

  • Godfrey, N.J., Davey, F., Stern, T.A., and Okaya, D., 2001, Crustal structure and thermal anomalies of the Dunedin Region, South Island, New Zealand, J. Geophys. Res., 106, 30,835-30,848.

  • Stern, T., Kleffmann, S., Okaya, D., Scherwath, M., and Bannister, S., 2001, Low seismic-wave speeds and enhanced fluid pressure beneath the Southern Alps of New Zealand, Geology. 29, 679-682.

  • Stern, T., Molnar, P., Okaya, D., and Eberhart-Phillips, D., 2000, P-wave teleseismic delays and lithospheric thickening beneath the central South Island, New Zealand, J. Geophys. Res., 105, 21615-21631.

  • Molnar, P., Anderson, H., Audoine, E., Eberhart-Phillips, D., Gledhill, K., Klosko, E., McEvilly, T., Okaya, D., Savage, M., Stern, T., and Wu, F., 1999, Continuous deformation versus faulting through continental lithosphere: tests using New Zealand as a laboratory for the study of continental dynamics, Science, 286, 516-519.

  • Davey, F.J., Henyey, T., Holbrook, W.S., Okaya, D., Stern, T.A., Melhuish, A., Henrys, S., Eberhart-Phillips, D., McEvilly, T., Urhammer, R., Anderson, H., Wu, F., Jiracek, G., Wannamaker, P., Caldwell, G., and Christensen, N., 1998, Preliminary results from a geophysical study across a modern, continent- continent collisional plate boundary - the Southern Alps, New Zealand, Tectonophysics, 288, 221-235.

  • Kleffmann, S., Davey, F., Melhuish, A., Okaya, D., and Stern, T., 1998, Crustal structure in the Central South Island from the Lake Pukaki seismic experiment, New Zeal. Jour. Geol. & Geophys., 41, 39-49.

  • Davey, F., Henyey, T., Kleffman, S., Melhuish, A., Okaya, D., Stern, T., and Woodward, D., 1995, A possible crustal seismic reflection from the Alpine fault, New Zeal. Jour. Geol. & Geophys., 38, 601-604.


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