New Zealand geologic time scale

While also using the international geologic time scale, many nations–especially those with isolated and therefore non-standard prehistories–use their own systems of dividing geologic time into epochs and faunal stages.

In New Zealand, these epochs and stages use local place names (mainly Māori in origin) back to the Permian. Prior to this time, names mostly align to those in the Australian geologic time scale, and are not divided into epochs. In practice, these earlier terms are rarely used, as most New Zealand geology is of a more recent origin. In all cases, New Zealand uses the same periods as those used internationally; the renaming only applies to subdivisions of these periods. Very few epochs and stages cross international period boundaries, and the exceptions are almost all within the Cenozoic Era.

Although the New Zealand geologic time scale has not been formally adopted, it has been widely used by earth scientists, geologists and palaeontologists in New Zealand since J. S. Crampton proposed it in 1995.

A standard abbreviation is used for these epochs and stages. These are usually in the form Xx, where the first letter is the initial letter of the epoch and the second (lower-case) letter is the initial letter of the stage. These are noted beside the stage names in the list below.

Currently, we are in the Haweran stage of the Wanganui epoch. The Haweran, which started some 340,000 years ago, is named after the North Island town of Hawera.

List of New Zealand geologic time epochs and stages

Times given indicate the start of the respective stages and epochs. Several of these stages are further divided into upper and lower or upper, middle, and lower, although this has not been noted below unless unique names have been given to these sub-stages. As with the international geologic scale, these epochs and stages are largely named for locales where rock dating from these time periods is in evidence, with stage names predominantly but not always named for locales close to their epoch's namesake site. Where known, these places are also linked in the list below.

Cenozoic Era

Name Abbreviation Start date (Ma) International equivalent Named after
Wanganui epoch W Pliocene, Pleistocene and Holocene Wanganui
Haweran stage Wq 0.34 Hawera
Castlecliffian stage Wc 1.63 Castlecliff (suburb of Wanganui)
Nukumaruan stage Wn 2.40 Nukumaru, near Waitotara
Mangapanian stage Wm 3.00 Mangapani
Waipipian stage Wp 3.60 Waipipi
Opoitian stage Wo 5.33 Opoiti, near Wairoa
Taranaki epoch T Upper Miocene Taranaki
Kapitean stage Tk 7.2 Kapitea Creek, near Kumara
Tongaporutuan stage Tt 11.01 Tongaporutu
Southland epoch S Middle Miocene Southland
Waiauan stage Sw 12.98 Waiau River
Lillburnian stage Sl 15.1 Lill Burn, Southland
Clifdenian stage Sc 15.9 Clifden, Southland
Pareora epoch P Lower Miocene Pareora
Altonian stage Pl 18.7 Alton Burn, Southland
Otaian stage Po 21.7 Otaio
Landon epoch L Oligocene to Lower Miocene Landon Creek, Pukeuri
Waitakian stage Lw 25.2 Waitaki River
Duntroonian stage Ld 27.3 Duntroon
Whaingaroan stage Lwh 34.5 Whaingaroa (Raglan Harbour)
Arnold epoch A Middle to Upper Eocene Arnold River
Runangan stage Ar 36.0 Runanga
Kaiatan stage Ak 38.4 Kaiata, near Greymouth
Bortonian stage Ab 42.77 Bortons, near Duntroon
Dannevirke epoch D Lower Palaeocene to Middle Eocene Dannevirke
Porangan stage Dp 45.3 Poranga
Heretaungan stage Dh 49.3 Heretaunga
Mangaorapan stage Dm 53.3 Mangaorapa, southern Hawke's Bay
Waipawan stage Dw 55.8 Waipawa
Teurian stage Dt 65.5 Te Uri

Mesozoic Era

Cretaceous Period

Name Abbreviation Start date (Ma) Named after
Mata epoch M
Haumurian stage Mh 84.0 Haumuri Bluff
Piripauan stage Mp 86.5 Piripaua (Spyglass Point), Kaikoura District
Raukumara epoch R Raukumara Range
Teratan stage Rt 89.1 Te Rata, Gisborne District
Mangaotanean stage Rm 92.1 Mangaotane, Gisborne District
Arowhanan stage Ra 95.2 Arowhana, Gisborne District
Clarence epoch C Clarence River
Ngaterian stage Cn 100.2 Ngateretere, Bay of Plenty Region
Motuan stage Cm 103.3 Motu River
Urutawan stage Cu 108.4 Urutawa, a hill north of Matawai
Taitai epoch U Taitai, a hill near Ruatoria
Korangan stage Uk 117.5 Koranga
Undifferentiated Taitai 145.5

Jurassic Period

Name Abbreviation Start date (Ma) Named after
Oteke epoch O Otaka Stream, Waikato
Puaroan stage Op 148.5 Puaroa Stream, Waikato
Kawhia epoch K Kawhia Harbour
Ohauan stage Ko 153.5 Nathan Point/Ohaua, Kawhia Harbour
Heterian stage Kh 157.5 Heteri Point, Kawhia Harbour
Temaikan stage Kt 175.6 Te Maika, Kawhia Harbour
Herangi epoch H Herangi, Aotea Harbour
Ururoan stage Hu 188.0 Ururoa Point, Kawhia Harbour
Aratauran stage Ha 199.6 Arataura Point, near Kawhia Harbour

Triassic Period

Name Abbreviation Start date (Ma) Named after
Balfour epoch B Balfour
Otapirian stage Bo 204.6 Otapiri, near Winton
Warepan stage Bw 212.0 Warepa, near Balclutha
Otamitan stage Bm 217.0 Otamita Stream, Hokonui Hills
Oretian stage Br 227.5 Oreti River
Gore epoch G Gore
Kaihikuan stage Gk 238.5 Kaihiku Stream, The Catlins
Etalian stage Ge 244.5 Etal Hill, north of Nightcaps
Malakovian stage Gm 245.5 Malakoff Hill, near Ohai
Nelsonian stage Gn 250.4 Nelson
Makarewan stage (see Permian Period, below)

Palaeozoic Era

Permian Period

Name Abbreviation Start date (Ma) Named after
D'Urville epoch YD D'Urville Island
Makarewan stage YDm 253.8 Makarewa River
Waiitian stage YDw ? Wai-iti River
Puruhauan stage YDp 260.4 Puruhaua Stream, The Catlins
Aparima epoch YA Aparima River
Flettian stage YAf 266.5 Flett's Hut, Takitimu Range
Barettian stage YAr 273.0 Barrett's Hut, Takitimu Range
Mangapirian stage YAm 280.0 Mangapiri Downs, east of Lake Monowai
Telfordian stage YAt 283.0 Telford Burn, Takitimu Range
Pre-Telfordian epoch (not subdivided into stages) Ypt 299.0

Carboniferous Period

Name Abbreviation Start date (Ma)
Carboniferous Period (not subdivided) F 359.2

Devonian Period

Stages prior to the beginning of the Carboniferous Period use either international (Devonian/Silurian) or Australian (Ordovician/Cambrian) geologic stage names; very little New Zealand rock is known from these geologic periods.

Name Abbreviation Start date (Ma)
Upper Devonian epoch JU
Famennian stage 374.5
Frasnian stage 385.3
Middle Devonian epoch JM
Givetian stage 391.8
Eifelian stage 397.5
Lower Devonian epoch JL
Emsian stage Jem 407.0
Pragian stage Jpr 411.2
Lochkovian stage Jlo 417.2

Silurian Period

Name Abbreviation Start date (Ma)
Pridoli epoch (not subdivided into stages) Epr 419.7
Ludlow epoch Elu
Ludfordian stage 422.0
Gorstian stage 423.5
Wenlock epoch Ewe
Homerian stage 426.2
Sheinwoodian stage 428.4
Llandovery epoch Ela
Telychian stage 435.9
Aeronian stage 439.7
Rhuddanian stage 443.2

Ordovician Period

Name Abbreviation Start date (Ma)
Upper Ordovician epoch
Bolindian stage Vbo 449.7
Eastonian stage Vea 456.1
Gisbornian stage Vgi 460.5
Middle Ordovician epoch
Darriwilian stage Vda 468.1
Yapeenian stage Vya 468.9
Castlemainian stage Vca 472.0
Lower Ordovician epoch
Chewtonian stage Vch 473.9
Bendigonian stage Vbe 476.8
Lancefieldian stage Vla 488.7
Pre-Lancefieldian stage Vpl 490.0

Cambrian Period

Name Abbreviation Start date (Ma)
Datsonian stage Xda 491.5
Payntonian stage Xpa 494.0
Iverian stage Xiv 498.5
Idamean stage Xid 501.0
Mindyallan stage Xmi 503.0
Boomerangian stage Xbo 504.0
Undillan stage Xun 505.0
Floran stage Xfl 507.0
Ordian/Templetonian stage Xor 513.0
Early Cambrian (not subdivided) XL 542.0

Proterozoic and Archaean Aeons

Name Abbreviation Start date (Ma)
(Not subdivided) Z

Footnotes to time scale

  1. ^ This stage is sometimes further divided into Mangaoran (lower) and Waikatoan (upper). These are named after Mangaora Inlet (an arm of Kawhia Harbour) and the Waikato River.
  2. ^ This stage is sometimes further divided into Kiriteherean (lower) and Marokopan (upper). These are named after the Marokopa River and the nearby Kiritehere Stream.
  3. ^ Until the late 1960s, the Flettian and Barettian stages were together known as the Braxtonian stage (see Waterhouse 1969). This was named for Braxton Burn, a stream near Mossburn.

See also


  • Bishop, D.G., and Turnbull, I.M. (compilers) (1996). Geology of the Dunedin Area. Lower Hutt, NZ: Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences. ISBN 0-478-09521-X.
  • Hollis, C.J., Beu, A.G., Crampton, J.S., Crundwell, M.P., Morgans, H.E.G., Raine, J.I., Jones, C.M., Boyes, A.F. (2010). Calibration of the New Zealand Cretaceous - Cenozoic Timescale to GTS2004, GNS Science Report, 2010/43, 20p.
  • Waterhouse, J.B. (1969). "World correlations of New Zealand Permian stages," New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics, 12:4, pp. 713–737
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