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Basin Depth Mapping Beneath Wellington City Based on Residual Gravity Anomalies

posted on 17.08.2021, 02:50 by Stronach, Alistair

New Zealand’s capital city of Wellington lies in an area of high seismic risk, which is further increased by the sedimentary basin beneath the Central Business District (CBD). Ground motion data and damage patterns from the 2013 Cook Strait and 2016 Kaikōura earthquakes indicate that two- and three-dimensional amplification effects due to the Wellington sedimentary basin may be significant. These effects are not currently accounted for in the New Zealand Building Code. In order for this to be done, three-dimensional simulations of earthquake shaking need to be undertaken, which requires detailed knowledge of basin geometry. This is currently lacking, primarily because of a dearth of deep boreholes in the CBD area, particularly in Thorndon and Pipitea where sediment depths are estimated to be greatest.

A new basin depth map for the Wellington CBD has been created by conducting a gravity survey using a modern Scintrex CG-6 gravity meter. Across the study area, 519 new high precision gravity measurements were made and a residual anomaly map created, showing a maximum amplitude anomaly of -6.2 mGal with uncertainties better than ±0.1 mGal. Thirteen two-dimensional geological profiles were modelled to fit the anomalies, then combined with existing borehole constraints to construct the basin depth map.

Results indicate on average greater depths than in existing models, particularly in Pipitea where depths are interpreted to be as great as 450 m, a difference of 250 m. Within 1 km of shore depths are interpreted to increase further, to 600 m. The recently discovered basin bounding Aotea Fault is resolved in the gravity data, where the basement is offset by up to 13 m, gravity anomaly gradients up to 8 mGal/km are observed, and possible multiple fault strands identified. A secondary strand of the Wellington Fault is also identified in the north of Pipitea, where gravity anomaly gradients up to 18 mGal/km are observed.


Advisor 1

Stern, Tim

Copyright Date


Date of Award



Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka

Rights License

CC BY-SA 4.0

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Victoria University of Wellington - Te Herenga Waka

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

Institute of Geophysics

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences