New Zealand geologic time scale

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 system of dividing geologic time into epochs and faunal stages.

In New Zealand, these epochs and stages use local place names (mainly Maori in origin) back to the Permian. Prior to this time, they largely use the same terms as used in the Australian geologic time scale, and are not divided into epochs. In practice, these early terms are rarely used, as most New Zealand geology is of more recent origin. In all cases, New Zealand uses the same periods as used internationally; it is only the subdivisions of these periods that have been renamed. Very few epochs and stages cross international period boundaries. Of those that do, almost all are within the Cenozoic Era.

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

A standard abbreviation is also used for these epochs and stages, mostly 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 listed alongside 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. 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
Nukumaruan stage Wn 2.40 Nukumaru
Mangapanian stage Wm 3.00 Mangapani
Waipipian stage Wp 3.60 Waipipi
Opoitian stage Wo 5.28 Opoiti
Taranaki epoch T Upper Miocene Taranaki
Kapitean stage Tk 6.5 Kapiti Island
Tongaporutuan stage Tt 10.9 Tongaporutu
Southland epoch S Middle Miocene Southland
Waiauan stage Sw 12.7 Waiau River
Lillburnian stage Sl 15.1 Lillburn Valley
Clifdenian stage Sc 15.9 Clifden
Pareora epoch P Lower Miocene Pareora
Altonian stage Pl 19.0 Alton
Otaian stage Po 21.7 Otaio
Landon epoch L Oligocene to Lower Miocene
Waitakian stage Lw 25.2 Waitaki River
Duntroonian stage Ld 27.3 Duntroon
Whaingaroan stage Lwh 34.3 Whaingaroa
Arnold epoch A Middle to Upper Eocene Arnold River
Runangan stage Ar 36.0 Runanga
Kaiatan stage Ak 37.0 Kaiata
Bortonian stage Ab 43.0 Bortons
Dannevirke epoch D Lower Palaeocene to Middle Eocene Dannevirke
Porangan stage Dp 46.2 Poranga
Heretaungan stage Dh 49.5 Heretaunga Plains
Mangaorapan stage Dm 53.0 Mangaorapa
Waipawan stage Dw 55.5 Waipawa
Teurian stage Dt 65.0 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
Raukumara epoch R Raukumara Range
Teratan stage Rt 89.1
Mangaotanean stage Rm 92.1 Mangaotane
Arowhanan stage Ra 95.2 Arowhana
Clarence epoch C Clarence River
Ngaterian stage Cn 100.2
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
Puaroan stage [1] Op 148.5
Kawhia epoch K Kawhia Harbour
Ohauan stage Ko 153.5
Heterian stage Kh 157.5
Temaikan stage Kt 175.6
Herangi epoch H
Ururoan stage Hu 188.0
Aratauran stage Ha 199.6

Triassic Period

Name Abbreviation Start date (Ma) Named after
Balfour epoch B Balfour
Otapirian stage Bo 204.6
Warepan stage [2] Bw 212.0 Warepa
Otamitan stage Bm 217.0
Oretian stage Br 227.5 Oreti River
Gore epoch G Gore
Kaihikuan stage Gk 238.5
Etalian stage Ge 244.5
Malakovian stage Gm 245.5
Nelsonian stage Gn 250.4 Nelson
Makarewan stage (see Permian Period, below)

Palaeozoic Period

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
Aparima epoch [3] YA Aparima River
Flettian stage YAf 266.5
Barettian stage YAr 273.0
Mangapirian stage YAm 280.0
Telfordian stage YAt 283.0
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).
  2. ^ This stage is sometimes further divided into Kiriteherean (lower) and Marokopan (upper).
  3. ^ Until recently, the Flettian and Barettian stages were together known as the Braxtonian stage.


  • 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.

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