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Neotectonics, Kinematics, and Evolution of the Vernon, Awatere, and Cloudy Faults of the Marlborough Fault System, New Zealand

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posted on 2021-11-13, 10:44 authored by Bartholomew, Timothy David

The coastal Awatere, Vernon, and Cloudy faults are bent and mutually intersecting, forming a complexly deforming dextral-oblique fault network. To try to explain the kinematic, paleoseismic and evolutionary complexities of this network, I present the results of an investigation into the rates, timing, and direction of slip on the faults within the network; which bifurcate eastwards from the central Awatere fault at the northeast end of the Marlborough Fault System. Displacements of dated and nondated late Quaternary features by the three faults were measured both onshore and offshore, constraining the kinematics of the fault network. The Vernon fault oddly maintains a dextral-reverse structure although it varies over 90° in strike and the Cloudy and coastal Awatere faults change from nearly pure strike slip to having a normal component eastwards. These data indicate that the fault-bounded blocks between the coastal Awatere, Vernon and Cloudy faults are rotating anticlockwise about a vertical axis relative to the block to the north of the fault system. Slip-rate data also indicate that of the 6 ± 1 mm/yr of slip on the central Awatere Fault, 1.1 ± 0.6 mm/yr has been partitioned ENE onto the coastal Awatere Fault and <4.9 mm/yr has been partitioned NNE onto the Vernon Fault. A slip-rate shortage in the splays of the Vernon Fault in the Vernon Hills is caused by a combination of unsighted faults and rotation of smaller splay-bounded blocks within the Vernon Hills. Paleoseismic records on the Vernon Fault were analysed onshore in a trench and offshore on seismic lines, with the records in good agreement. 3-5 earthquakes are recognised at different sites, with the last earthquake occurring 3.3 ka and a mean recurrence interval of 3-4 ka on the Vernon Fault. When combined with the paleseismic records from the Awatere and Cloudy faults I find that separate faults ruptured at similar times, suggesting a connectivity of the faults, as separate faults could mutually rupture during one earthquake or an earthquake could subsequently trigger an earthquake on a nearby fault. Finally I present the finite slip of geologic units and use these data as well as the late Quaternary slip data to describe the evolution of the fault network. I propose that the fault network at the NE end of the Awatere fault has stepped northwards into several splays, caused by clockwise rotation of the NE tips of the Marlborough faults.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Master of Science

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Little, Timothy