Cross-bedded, cool-water, bioclastic limestones of the Te Kuiti Group on the North Island of New Zealand are composed primarily of bryozoans, echinoderms, and benthic foraminifers. Their prominent, large-scale, unidirectional cross-stratification is interpreted as produced by migrating subaqueous dunes on the floor of a 50–100 km wide, north-east-trending seaway in water depths of 40–60 m. These dunes are thought to have developed in response to strong, seaway-parallel, tidal currents combined with a north-east-directed, set-up or oceanic current.

Cross-stratification is organized into four hierarchical levels: (1) cross-lamination; (2) first-order sets; (3) second-order sets; and (4) cross-stratified successions. The levels are based on increasing degrees of internal complexity. Distinct attributes such as internal organization, cross-set thickness, foreset shape, and lower bounding-surface shape are used to describe and interpret the cross-stratification. All these attributes are here integrated in a new and expanded classification of unidirectional cross-stratification that emphasizes flow and bedform dynamics rather than overall set shape.

Individual cross-stratified successions are interpreted to have formed by dunes with varying sinuosity, superposition, and flow history, under conditions of different current strength but constant sediment production. Horizontally bedded successions are the result of robust, active dune fields that grew during times of vigorous sediment transport. Formset successions were produced from large compound dunes and are the expression of languid and decaying dune fields that developed during times of decreasing sediment transport. These decaying dunes were gradually smothered by continuously and locally produced bioclastic sediment. Formset cross-stratified successions are most likely to develop in carbonates, where the sediment is produced in place, than in terrigenous clastics where the sediment is imported.