Regional Seismic Attribute Analysis and Tectono-Stratigraphy of Offshore South-Western Taranaki Basin, New Zealand
This study investigates the nature, origin, and distribution of Cretaceous to Recent sediment fill in the offshore Taranaki Basin, western New Zealand. Seismic attributes and horizon interpretations on 30,000 km of 2D seismic reflection profiles and three 3D seismic surveys (3,000 km²) are used to image depositional systems and reconstruct paleogeography in detail and regionally, across a total area of ~100,000 km² from the basin's present-day inner shelf to deep water. These data are used to infer the influence of crustal tectonics and mantle dynamics on the development of depocentres and depositional pathways. During the Cretaceous to Eocene period the basin evolved from two separate rifts into a single broad passive margin. Extensional faulting ceased before 85 Ma in the present-day deep-water area of the southern New Caledonia Trough, but stretching of the lithosphere was higher (β=1.5-2) than in the proximal basin (β<1.5), where faulting continued into the Paleocene (~60 Ma). The resulting differential thermal subsidence caused northward tilting of the basin and influenced the distribution of sedimentary facies in the proximal basin. Attribute maps delineate the distribution of the basin's main petroleum source and reservoir facies, from a ~20,000 km²-wide, Late Cretaceous coastal plain across the present-day deep-water area, to transgressive shoreline belts and coastal plains in the proximal basin. Rapid subsidence began in the Oligocene and the development of a foredeep wedge through flexural loading of the eastern boundary of Taranaki Basin is tracked through the Middle Miocene. Total shortening within the basin was minor (5-8%) and slip was mostly accommodated on the basin-bounding Taranaki Fault Zone, which detached the basin from much greater Miocene plate boundary deformation further east. The imaging of turbidite facies and channels associated with the rapidly outbuilding shelf margin wedge illustrates the development of large axial drainage systems that transported sediment over hundreds of kilometres from the shelf to the deep-water basin since the Middle Miocene. Since the latest Miocene, south-eastern Taranaki Basin evolved from a compressional foreland to an extensional (proto-back-arc) basin. This structural evolution is characterised by: 1) cessation of intra-basinal thrusting by 7-5 Ma, 2) up to 700 m of rapid (>1000 m/my) tectonic subsidence in 100-200 km-wide, sub-circular depocentres between 6-4 Ma (without significant upper-crustal faulting), and 3) extensional faulting since 3.5-3 Ma. The rapid subsidence in the east caused the drastic modification of shelf margin geometry and sediment dispersal directions. Time and space scales of this subsidence point to lithospheric or asthenospheric mantle modification, which may be a characteristic process during back-arc basin development. Unusual downward vertical crustal movements of >1 km, as inferred from seismic facies, paleobathymetry and tectonic subsidence analysis, have created the present-day Deepwater Taranaki Basin physiography, but are not adequately explained by simple rift models. It is proposed that the distal basin, and perhaps even the more proximal Taranaki Paleogene passive margin, were substantially modified by mantle processes related to the initiation of subduction on the fledgling Australia-Pacific plate boundary north of New Zealand in the Eocene.