Otago fault system
Otago reverse fault province
The physical land features of Otago, in particular the orientation of the main mountain or hill ranges are related to the orentation of the Otago fault system.
Map of approximate active surface faults (red) and potentially active faults and fault zones (pink shading) associated with Otago fault system. The Alpine Fault is also shown. Click on the map to enable mouse over of fault features.[1]
Year defined2000
CountryNew Zealand
RegionOtago Region
RangeMw7+ [2][3]
Length100 km (62 mi)[3]
TypeMultiple but mainly reverse
Volcanic arc/beltDunedin volcanic group
New Zealand geology database (includes faults)

The Otago fault system (also known as Otago reverse fault province) contains multiple faults with the potential to have rupture events greater than Mw7 in magnitude.[2][3] These are parallel to, and to the east of the Alpine Fault in the south eastern part of the South Island of New Zealand. It accommodates about 2 mm (0.079 in)/year of contraction.[2]


East of the Southern Alps, Central Otago has a number of parallel, northeast trending ranges separating broad, flat-bottomed valleys which extend to the coast of Otago. These ranges are associated with the main reverse faults of the system.[2] Near the Southern Alps the faults with this north-east trend continue through Lindis Pass into South Canterbury and so the Dalrachney/Lindis Pass Fault and the Ostler Fault Zone in South Canterbury are geologically related to the Otago fault system.[4] Otago, towards the coast, is separated from South Canterbury by the Waitaki River and the south western aspect of this river valley is defined by mainly normal north-northwest striking faults such as the Hawkdun Fault, and Waihemo fault zone.[4] The south eastern part of the zone is limited by Fiordland and the Hillfoot Fault in Southland which is a reverse fault[5] on the Otago side of the Hokonui Hills and The Catlins. Just off the coast from Dunedin towards the south are several active northeast-trending faults of the system.[2]



The boundary between the Australian and Pacific plates passes through the west of the South Island of New Zealand, as the very active by world standards, Alpine Fault. While this takes up a major part of the movement across these plate boundaries, a fifth of the currently 10 mm (0.39 in) /year compression element is taken up by the Otago fault system in mainly the Permian Ophiolite Belt and Otago schists in the Otago range and basin province. This Otago peneplain lies between the Southland Syncline and the Canterbury Plains.[2] The consequence appears to be long periods of inactivity on individual reverse faults, perhaps 100,000 years and then multiple release events over a few thousand years before moving on to another fault system.[6] Such episodic earthquake activity is thought to be the result of strain sharing between faults within the system.[7] There is now good evidence for this.[8]


The most recent active faults moving from the north east towards the south are the Ostler Fault Zone and Lewis Pass faults, although these are mainly in Canterbury, the NW Cardrona Fault (and its northern continuation of the Hunter Valley Fault and southern continuation as the Nevis and West Nokomai faults.[4][3] At the coast the Settlement Fault (essentially in Southland but part of the Otago fault system) and Akatore Fault are the most recently active. The expectation over the whole fault system is a rupture every 100 to 200 years of an earthquake between magnitude 6.5 to 7.[2] Because of the good evidence that some of the faults in the system can have large periods of quiescence,[6] the information that follows should be supplemented by drill down on the map on this page or referral to original references as not all faults that may be significant can be mentioned.

Definitely active faults, in last 10,000 years of the Otago fault system
Name Surface length Maximum Slip rate Reoccurrence Notes
Akatore Fault 37 km (23 mi) 6 mm (0.24 in)/year 1700 years [5]
Dunstan Fault Zone 63 km (39 mi) 0.16 mm (0.0063 in)/year 7000 years [8][4]
Gimmerburn Fault Zone 42 km (26 mi) 0.4 mm (0.016 in)/year 7400 years [4]
Highland Fault 12 km (7.5 mi) 0.32 mm (0.013 in)/year 6500 years [4]
Lindis Pass Fault Zone 38 km (24 mi) 0.47 mm (0.019 in)/year 5600 years [4]
Livingstone Fault 6.5 km (4.0 mi) 1 mm (0.039 in)/year 6400 years [4]
Long Valley Fault 13 km (8.1 mi) 0.18 mm (0.0071 in)/year 7900 years [4]
Motatapu Fault 30 km (19 mi) 0.32 mm (0.013 in)/year 6500 years [4]
Nevis Fault Zone 52 km (32 mi) 0.4 mm (0.016 in)/year 9000 years [4]
NW Cardrona Fault 30 km (19 mi) 0.38 mm (0.015 in)/year 5500 years [4]
Settlement Fault 23 km (14 mi) 0.79 mm (0.031 in)/year 1800 years [5]
Timaru Creek Fault 13 km (8.1 mi) 0.32 mm (0.013 in)/year 6100 years [4]

Akatore Fault

The Akatore Fault is of potential significance as it is the most active fault close to the city of Dunedin and full rupture would be associated with coastal tsunami risk. There have been two ruptures within the last 1300 years.[5] It is unknown if the offshore Green Island Fault is related.[5] If it is, the potential for significant human and property hazard from a whole fault rupture is considerably increased. The onland 23 km (14 mi) fault has at least a 5 km (3.1 mi) offshore extension to the south, and a 9 km (5.6 mi) offshore extension towards Dunedin's coastal suburbs.[5] One recent rupture caused 7.4 m (24 ft) of slip.[5] Before recent activity in the last 15,000 years it had been quiescent for over 100,000 years. The recent activity implies an slip rate of 6 mm (0.24 in)/year with recurrence average of 1700 years.[5] The fault is named for the Akatore Creek, a small stream which flows to the Pacific south of Taieri Mouth.

Titri Fault

The Titri Fault (also known as Titri fault system or Titri fault zone) passes through the western suburbs of Dunedin, often along the course of the railway line south, and is associated with the coastal hills to its east and the Titri anticline.[5] Some[who?] believe it may extend all the way to the Water of Leith.[5] It was originally a normal fault with displacement to the southeast over 100 million years ago.[5] It was reactivated perhaps 40,000 years ago with reversal of movement which has formed the coastal hills in the typical northeast orientation of the Otago fault system. The last partial rupture was about 18,000 years ago and single event displacements are about 3.5 m (11 ft).[5] The recent activity implies an slip rate of 0.15 mm (0.0059 in)/year with recurrence average of 19,000 years.[5] The fault is named for the rural locality of Titri, close to the eastern shore of Lake Waihola.

Kaikorai Fault

The Kaikorai Fault is well mapped through the western suburbs of Dunedin and some[who?] have considered it a splay of the Titri Fault. If defined as a separate fault it has not been active for at least 20,000 years. It is 16 km (9.9 mi) long and has a long term slip rate of 0.05 mm (0.0020 in)/year and a reoccurrence interval of about 22,000 years.[5] The valley of the Kaikorai Stream runs along the fault.

Hyde Fault

A typical fault induced ridge in Central Otago - in this case the Rock and Pillar Range

The 55 km (34 mi) long[7] Hyde Fault is close to the small towns of Hyde and Middlemarch. The last four surface-rupturing earthquakes occurred about 47,000 years ago, 39,000 years ago, 23,000 years ago and 10,300 years ago.[8] Movement along it has built up the Rock and Pillar Range to 1,200 m (3,900 ft) above the valley floor. Its current slip rate has been recently updated to be 0.24 mm (0.0094 in)/year.[8]


  1. ^ "GNS:New Zealand Active Faults Database". Retrieved 2023-04-29.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Norris, Richard J. (2004). "Strain localisation within ductile shear zones beneath active faults: The Alpine Fault contrasted with the adjacent Otago fault system, New Zealand" (PDF). Earth, Planets and Space. 56 (12): 1095–1101. Bibcode:2004EP&S...56.1095N. doi:10.1186/BF03353328.
  3. ^ a b c d "New seismic research on the Nevis Fault in western Otago has found there is potential it could produce a similarly-sized earthquake to the 2010 Christchurch quake". Retrieved 2023-05-06.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Barrell, DJA (2018). "General distribution and characteristics of active faults and folds in the Queenstown Lakes and Central districts, Otago:GNS Science Consultancy Report 2018/207" (PDF). Retrieved 2023-05-06.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Barrell, DJA (2021). "General distribution and characteristics of active faults and folds in the Clutha and Dunedin City districts, Otago:GNS Science Consultancy Report 2020/88" (PDF). Retrieved 2023-05-06.
  6. ^ a b Norris, Richard J.; Nicolls, Ross (2004). "STRAIN ACCUMULATION AND EPISODICITY OF FAULT MOVEMENTS IN OTAGO. EQC RESEARCH REPORT 01/445" (PDF). Retrieved 2023-05-06.
  7. ^ a b Griffin, Jonathan D.; Stirling, Mark W.; Barrell, David J.A.; van den Berg, Ella J.; Todd, Erin K.; Nicolls, Ross; Wang, Ningsheng (2022). "Paleoseismology of the Hyde Fault, Otago, New Zealand". New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics. 65 (4): 613–637. Bibcode:2022NZJGG..65..613G. doi:10.1080/00288306.2021.1995007.
  8. ^ a b c d Griffin, Jonathan D.; Stirling, Mark W.; Wilcken, Klaus M.; Barrell, David J. A. (2022). "Late Quaternary Slip Rates for the Hyde and Dunstan Faults, Southern New Zealand: Implications for Strain Migration in a Slowly Deforming Continental Plate Margin". Tectonics. 41 (9). Bibcode:2022Tecto..4107250G. doi:10.1029/2022TC007250.

45°24′S 169°36′E / 45.4°S 169.6°E / -45.4; 169.6