Provenance comparisons between the Nambucca Block, Eastern Australia and the Torlesse Composite Terrane, New Zealand

Connections and implications from detrital zircon age patterns

C. J. Adams, R. J. Korsch, W. L. Griffin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Citations (Scopus)


Detrital zircon U-Pb LAM-ICPMS age patterns for sandstones from the mid-Permian -Triassic part (Rakaia Terrane) of the accretionary wedge forming the Torlesse Composite Terrane in Otago, New Zealand, and from the early Permian Nambucca Block of the New England Orogen, eastern Australia, constrain the development of the early Gondwana margin. In Otago, the Triassic Torlesse samples have a major (64%), younger group of Permian-Early Triassic age components at ca 280, 255 and 240 Ma, and a minor (30%) older age group with a Precambrian-early Paleozoic range (ca 1000, 600 and 500 Ma). In Permian sandstones nearby, the younger, Late Permian age components are diminished (30%) with respect to the older Precambrian-early Paleozoic age group, which now also contains major (50%) and unusual Carboniferous age components at ca 350-330 Ma. Sandstones from the Nambucca Block, an early Permian extensional basin in the southern New England Orogen, follow the Torlesse pattern: the youngest. Early Permian age components are minor (<20%) and the overall age patterns are dominated (40%) by Carboniferous age components (ca 350-320 Ma). These latter zircons are inherited from either the adjacent Devonian-Carboniferous accretionary wedge (e.g. Texas-Woolomin and Coffs Harbour Blocks) or the forearc basin (Tamworth Belt) farther to the west, in which volcaniclastic-dominated sandstone units have very similar pre-Permian (principally Carboniferous) age components. This gradual variation in age patterns from Devonian-late Carboniferous time in Australia to Late Permian-mid-Cretaceous time in New Zealand suggests an evolutionary model for the Eastern Gondwanaland plate margin and the repositioning of its subduction zone. (1) A Devonian to Carboniferous accretionary wedge in the New England Orogen developing at a (present-day) Queensland position until late in the Carboniferous. (2) Early Permian outboard repositioning of the primary, magmatic arc allowing formation of extensional basins throughout the New England Orogen. (3) Early to mid-Permian translocation of the accretionary wedge and more inboard active-margin elements, southwards to their present position. This was accompanied by oroclinal bending which allowed the initiation of a new, late Permian to Early Triassic accretionary wedge (eventually the Torlesse Composite Terrane of New Zealand) in an offshore Queensland position. (4) Jurassic-Cretaceous development of this accretionary wedge offshore, in northern Zealandia, with southwards translation of the various constituent terranes of the Torlesse Composite Terrane to their present New Zealand position.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-253
Number of pages13
JournalAustralian Journal of Earth Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013

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