Brittle faulting and fluid flow in basement rocks of coastal Otago (South Island, New Zealand)


Frank, Madison


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Fault and fracture networks in foliated basement rocks control the strength, fluid flow properties and seismogenic behaviour of the crust in many areas worldwide. Understanding faulting patterns in foliated basement rocks is important because much seismicity (e.g. in the south island of New Zealand) occurs within basement rocks and basement faults are commonly linked to the formation of major ore bodies (e.g. in central Otago). Strongly foliated schists (and greywackes) are well exposed across extensive, clean outcrops along coastal sections in Otago, providing an important opportunity to study the nature of brittle deformation and faulting in the outboard region of the Otago reverse-fault province. Furthermore, it offers an opportunity to evaluate the extent to which pre-existing anisotropy in the basement schist (foliation and joints) has influenced the patterns of brittle deformation along the coastal platform.

Using high-resolution aerial photography, lineaments (n=6625) with lengths of ~3 m to c. 200 m were mapped along the 16.5 km-long coastal platform between Taieri Mouth and Chrystalls Beach, Otago. Significant patterns noted in the lineament data include strong preferred orientations trending 50-70° and 120-140°. Comparison to regional-scale faults in the Otago region (as recognised on GNS QMAP) shows a strong correlation between the coastal lineaments trending 120-140° and a set of NW-SE striking regional faults. However, many faults in the Otago region, including the nearby Akatore Fault, trend NE-SW (30-40 ± 10°), an orientation that is conspicuously absent in our coastal lineament analysis.

Detailed structural mapping has showed that SE-NW (120-140°) lineaments correspond to first-order faults (≤ 2 m wide) hosting breccias and small sinistral strike-slip faults that nucleated on continuous, planar, steeply-dipping joints. The latter are associated with paired quartz-calcite veins and small breccia pods developed in dilational jogs between adjacent joint tips. ENE-WSW (50-70°) lineaments correspond to a second (often dextral) strike-slip fault set hosting thin, continuous breccia layers formed within intact schist. Both fault sets host shallowly plunging lineations and form a conjugate set. Inversion of kinematic indicators, primarily from the conjugate fault set, indicates the paleostress field during faulting was similar to the modern-day stress field in Canterbury and Otago, characterized by subhorizontal σ1 trending c. 114° and subvertical σ2, i.e. a strike-slip stress regime. From this, we infer that the faults are post-Miocene (< 25 Ma) in age and formed in the modern-day stress regime.

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Open Access

Location (WKT, WGS84):

POLYGON ((170.027586741855572 -46.216358862674184,170.043209218191919 -46.021011837957282,170.271410127526195 -46.03097888257458,170.262901484295014 -46.223668433655874,170.027586741855572 -46.216358862674184))

Abstract PDF File



Frank, Madison, “Brittle faulting and fluid flow in basement rocks of coastal Otago (South Island, New Zealand),” Otago Geology Theses, accessed July 24, 2017,