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New Zealand Landforms

The breathtaking and varied landscapes of New Zealand offer a wonderful laboratory for geoscientists to research the natural processes that have been creating them. In these pages there is information about different landforms in New Zealand and how they formed.

New Zealand sits on an active plate boundary. The relentless compression of the crust causes different parts of the country to be moved up, down or sideways. Some blocks of the crust are also rotated and stretched by these enormous internal forces. Volcanic eruptions build up mountains of ash and lava or create the collapse craters that become large caldera lakes.

Relentless erosion by water and ice carves away at the surface outcrops, to fill valleys and basins with thick layers of sediment. One day these may be uplifted again in a repeated cycle. Plants also play a part in the shaping of the land, by speeding up the weathering process, or holding soil in place with their root systems. The skeletons of marine creatures form thick sediments that become significant rock formations.

Humans are increasingly changing the New Zealand landscape as we modify it for transport, housing, agriculture and mining. At the same time we are increasingly impacted by our active landscape as more and more people live in marginal areas exposed to landslides, flooding and other natural hazard events.  

New Zealand Landforms. Image: Julian Thomson.

Image: Julian Thomson.

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