Tectonic Geomorphology and Paleoseismology of the Lees Valley Fault Zone, South Island, New Zealand

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Theses / Dissertations
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Master of Science
University of Canterbury
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Gore, Ellyse Sonja

Oblique-convergent plate collision between the Pacific and Australian plates across the South Island has resulted in shallow, upper crustal earthquake activity and ground surface deformation. In particular the Porters Pass - Amberley Fault Zone displays a complex hybrid zone of anastomosing dextral strike-slip and thrust/reverse faulting which includes the thrust/reverse Lees Valley Fault Zone and associated basin deformation. There is a knowledge gap with respect to the paleoseismicity of many of the faults in this region including the Lees Valley Fault Zone. This study aimed to investigate the earthquake history of the fault at a selected location and the structural and geomorphic development of the Lees Valley Fault Zone and eastern rangefront. This was investigated through extensive structural and geomorphic mapping, GPS field surveying, vertical aerial photo interpretation, analysis of Digital Elevation Models, paleoseismic trenching and optically stimulated luminescence dating. This thesis used a published model for tectonic geomorphology development of mountain rangefronts to understand the development of Lees Valley. Rangefront geomorphology is investigated through analysis of features such as rangefront sinuosity and faceted spurs and indicates the recently active and episodic nature of the uplifted rangefront. Analysis of fault discontinuity, fault splays, distribution of displacement, fault deformation zone and limited exposure of bedrock provided insight into the complex structure of the fault zone. These observations revealed preserved, earlier rangefronts, abandoned and uplifted within the eastern ranges, indicating a basinward shift in focus of faulting and an imbricate thrust wedge development propagating into the footwall of the fault zone and along the eastern ranges of Lees Valley. Fault scarp deformation analysis indicated multiple events have produced the deformation present preserved by the active fault trace in the northern valley. Vertical deformation along this scarp varied with a maximum of 11.5 m and an average of 5 m. Field mapping revealed fan surfaces of various ages have been offset and deformed, likely during the Holocene, based on expected relative surface ages. Geomorphic and structural mapping highlighted the effect of cross-cutting and inherited structures on the Lees Valley Fault, resulting in a step-over development in the centre of the eastern range-bounding trace. Paleoseismic trenching provided evidence of at least two earthquakes, which were constrained to post 21.6 ± 2.3 ka by optically stimulated luminescence dating. Single event displacements (1.48 ± 0.08 m), surface rupture earthquake magnitudes (Mw 6.7 ± 0.1, with potential to produce ≥ 7.0), and a minimum recurrence interval (3.6 ± 0.3 ka) indicated the Lees Valley Fault is an active structure capable of producing significant earthquake events. Results from this study indicate that the Lees Valley Fault Zone accommodates an important component of the Porters Pass - Amberley Fault Zone deformation and confirms the fault as a source of potentially damaging, peak ground accelerations in the Canterbury region. Remnants of previous rangefronts indicate a thrust wedge development of the Lees Valley Fault Zone and associated ranges that can potentially be used as a model of development for other thrust-fault bounded basins.

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