• mantle tectonics;
  • New Zealand;
  • petrophysics;
  • seismic anisotropy;
  • shear wave splitting


We constrain the extent of lithospheric and asthenospheric deformation beneath New Zealand by coupling measurements of shear wave splitting of teleseismic waves and petrophysical analysis of mantle xenoliths. SKS splitting for the central South Island and the eastern part of the North Island confirms earlier observations. The fast S-wave polarization directions are roughly NE/SW, which is parallel to the Alpine Fault in the South Island and to the strike of the Hikurangi subduction zone in the North Island. This suggests that flow parallel to the plate boundary extends up to 160 km away from the boundary. Departures from this pattern are restricted to the southernmost station and the two northernmost stations and indicate changes in the mantle flow or a more complex anisotropic pattern, such as a dipping axis of symmetry or heterogeneous anisotropy. Analysis of mantle xenoliths from the Raglan (North Island), Dunedin (South Island) and Chatham Island regions allows us to constrain the lithospheric contribution to the observed seismic anisotropy. The intrinsic S-wave anisotropy is 1.5 per cent higher for the South Island samples (∼5.0 per cent versus ∼3.5 per cent for the North Island), indicating a strong lithospheric deformation that could explain the major part of the observed splitting. In the North Island, the intrinsic lithospheric anisotropy is too low to explain the SKS splitting times. This indicates that asthenospheric deformation probably plays a major role there. For the Chatham Island, the anisotropy pattern remains unresolved as the xenolith suggests strong lithospheric anisotropy but no present splitting is measured.