The New Zealand Continent
Over 95% of the New Zealand continent is below water. In order to responsibly manage its resources and assess offshore hazards we need to understand continents geological formation and evolution, mineral formation processes and the environment factors that support life above and below the seabed.
New Zealand's present day land area of about 250,000 km2 represents only the tip of a much larger submerged continent greater than 6,500,000 km2. Most of this vast submerged New Zealand continent is virtually unexplored.
Two major tectonic plates meet at New Zealand. In the north, the Pacific Plate is subducting (descending into the earth) beneath the Australian Plate. In the south the opposite occurs. This results in buckling and faulting of the Earth's crust, and is the reason for uplift of the land. Parts of the New Zealand continent that lie away from the plate boundaries have not been broken up and twisted by subduction, and contain a geological record of New Zealand's history. These offshore areas are therefore ideal areas for studying the geological processes that have formed New Zealand
New Zealand’s Ocean Policy
The New Zealand's Oceans Policy concerns not only what is in the sea, but also what is on and beneath the seafloor. New Zealand's Oceans and Land Policies cannot be isolated - the geology, resources and hazards are continuous across the shoreline.
Responsible management of New Zealand’s marine territory requires a reasonable knowledge of what exists on and beneath the seabed. There is presently very little knowledge of the deep water environment (>500m, 65% of the New Zealand Continent). Ongoing research and marine exploration will ensure well informed decisions can be made on the future of our oceans.