Stratigraphic and tectonic framework of Late Cretaceous and Paleogene strata of southern Aotea Basin, northwest New Zealand
Seismic reflection data reveal thick sediment sequences of Late Cretaceous to Paleogene age in the region northwest of Taranaki Basin. A new stratigraphic framework for latest Cretaceous and Paleogene strata is created based on stacking patterns and stratal termination relationships of seismic reflectors. Sequence-bounding reflectors are tied to petroleum exploration wells, including recently-drilled Romney-1, to assign age and paleoenvironment interpretation. I identify the following sequences: (1) a late Haumurian to Teurian (68 – 56 Ma) aggradational shelf sequence, with at least two regressional events linked to eustatic sea-level falls; (2) a diachronous deepening of the basin that progressed from north to south during the late Waipawan to Heretaungan (53 – 46 Ma); (3) small-scale volcanism at the southern boundary with Taranaki Basin is contemporaneous with this deepening; (4) a prograding delta on Challenger Plateau during the Porangan to Runangan (46 – 35 Ma) that is evidence for tectonic uplift of the basin margins; and (5) an onlapping sequence from latest Runangan to present (35 – 0 Ma) that indicates Challenger Plateau subsided 1,300 m. A revised set of paleogeography maps and generalised stratigraphic chart summarise these observations. The Eocene phase (52-46 Ma) of tectonic subsidence and diffuse volcanism is one of the earliest signs of tectonic activity associated with development of the Cenozoic plate boundary through New Zealand. Petroleum system analysis reveals that southern Aotea Basin is prospective for petroleum exploration, with 3 plays identified in the Late Haumurian to Teurian (79 – 56 Ma) strata, in spite of Romney-1 proving unsuccessful.