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How Plates Move

Ngā Whāinga Ako

Mahi Tuatahi

Explore this website:

  1. How did Earth look when life first arose?
  2. How about when the dinosaurs were around?
  3. And the first primates?
  4. Did NZ exist? Did it look as it does now?

Recap: What is the theory of plate tectonics?

What is the Ring of Fire?

What plates are involved?

NZ Tectonics

What plates does New Zealand straddle?

Where plates move apart, new mountains form. Where plates meet, one can go under the other or they push together and form new mountains.


We call the areas where plate boundaries fault lines.



According to information published by the Geology Department at New Zealand’s, University of Otago, the Alpine transform boundary is unique because the Pacific plate is thrusting over the top of the Australian plate. This behaviour is typically only found at convergent boundaries or subduction zones, and not at transform boundaries. As a result, New Zealand’s Southern Alps are increasing in height by approximately seven millimetres per year.

The trench visible north and south of New Zealand shows that the Pacific plate is diving below the Australian plate, creating lots of volcanoes in the north island.