Rim of Fire — the Islands of New Zealand

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On the Edge of the Rim of Fire

Urupukapuka Island, Bay of Islands. Historians believe that Urupukapuka Island was first inhabited around 1000 years ago. Today much of the island is a conservation park - campers and day-trippers are welcome. There are numerous archaeological sites on the island, linked by a well-marked walking trail. Beautiful white sand beaches are another reason to visit. (photo: TNZ Tourism New Zealand)
Urupukapuka Island, Bay of Islands. Historians believe that Urupukapuka Island was first inhabited around 1000 years ago. Today much of the island is a conservation park – campers and day-trippers are welcome. There are numerous archaeological sites on the island, linked by a well-marked walking trail. Beautiful white sand beaches are another reason to visit. (photo: TNZ Tourism New Zealand)

The islands of New Zealand sit on two of the Earth’s great tectonic plates – the Australian and the Pacific

New Zealand is being torn apart every day by forces deep below the ocean. The islands of New Zealand sit on two of the Earth’s great tectonic plates – the Australian and the Pacific – which are constantly moving away from each other. This means that Christchurch in the South Island is sliding away from Auckland in the North Island by about four metres every century.

The motion between the two plates gives New Zealand its diverse geology – stunning mountain ranges formed from the plates squashing together, and deep lakes that were once active volcanoes. Today the continuous shifting and grinding is evident in smoking volcanoes and bubbling geysers in Rotorua.

While it may be a country constantly being reborn, New Zealand’s oldest rocks are 500 million years old, relics from Gondwanaland. New Zealand broke off and slipped away from Gondwanaland about 85 million years ago.