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  • Uncovering our explosive past – a look at some of the historical aspects of volcanoes in New Zealand.

    10 million BC – Mt Cargill erupts

    Mt Cargill near Dunedin erupts, forming the Organ Pipes.

    6 million BC – Banks Peninsula formed

    Banks Peninsula in Canterbury is formed through volcanic eruptions.

    3 million BC – Little Barrier Island formed

    Little Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf north of Auckland is formed through volcanic eruptions.

    2.3 million BC – Whāngārei volcanic field active

    The Whāngārei volcanic field produces scoria cone volcanoes, similar to those found in Auckland. This field is now extinct.

    2 million BC – Mt Horrible erupts

    Mt Horrible erupts, forming the Timaru harbour.

    240,000 BC – Double trouble eruptions

    Rotorua and Ōhakuri erupt within days of each other.

    150,000 BC – First eruptions in Auckland

    First eruptions in the Auckland volcanic field at Pukekawa, now the Auckland Domain.

    140,000 BC – Lake Pupuke formed

    Lake Pupuke is formed and trees are fossilised on Takapuna beach.

    133,000 BC – Mt Taranaki erupts

    Mt Taranaki, an andesite volcano in the central North Island, begins to erupt.

    18,000 BC – Mt Smart formed

    Mt Smart is formed, and Onepoto Basin is formed in a separate eruption.

    15,000 BC – One Tree Hill formed

    One Tree Hill, an iconic landmark of Auckland, is formed through volcanic activity.

    500 BC – Mt Ngāuruhoe first begins to erupt

    A vent of Mt Tongariro becomes active and forms the neighbouring Mt Ngāuruhoe.

    200 AD – Taupō erupts

    Taupō erupts forming Lake Taupō – the world’s most powerful eruption in 5,000 years.

    1000 AD – Mayor Island formed

    A volcano in the Bay of Plenty erupts, forming Mayor Island, also known as Tūhua Island.

    1314 – Mt Tarawera erupts

    This eruption covers the region with a layer of ash.

    1400 – Rangitoto erupts

    This eruption forms Rangitoto Island.

    1870 – Ngāuruhoe erupts again

    Ngāuruhoe erupts on 7 July 1870. It first formed about 2,500 years ago.

    1886 – Mt Tarawera erupts

    Mt Tarawera erupts, destroying the Pink and White Terraces.

    Find out more about the on-going search to rediscover the Pink and White Terraces.

    1896 – Mt Tongariro erupts

    Mt Tongariro in the central North Island erupts.

    1915 – Continental drift theory

    Alfred Wegener proposes model of continental drift.

    1954 – Mt Ngāuruhoe erupts

    Mt Ngauruhoe in the central North Island continues to erupt and deposit lava.

    1960s – Theory of plate tectonics developed

    Many strands of evidence are tied together into the encompassing theory of plate tectonics.

    1974 – Mt Ngāuruhoe erupts

    Mt Ngauruhoe continues to erupt with an estimated 45 eruptions in the 20th century.

    1995–1996 – Mt Ruapehu erupts

    Spectacular eruptions are widely documented in the media.

    2001 – Whakaari/White Island erupts

    Whakaari/White Island remains active and routinely produces gas clouds.

    2007 – Lahar on Mt Ruapehu

    A lahar (mudflow or landslide) on Mt Ruapehu is a result of the 1996 eruptions.

    2019 – Whakaari/White Island erupts

    On 9 December 2019 Whakaari/White Island erupted. At the time 47 people were on the island and at least 22 were killed by the eruption.

    2020 – charges laid after the Whakaari/White Island disaster

    On 30 November 2020 the government agency WorkSafe filed charges against 13 parties in relation to the Whakaari/White Island disaster, these include GNS Science and the National Emergency Management Agency (Nema).

    2022 – Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapa volcanic eruption

    On 15 January 2022 large underwater volcano Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapa exploded, creating a tsunami that travelled around the Pacific, a giant cloud of ash that reached 20 km into the atmosphere and an explosion that was heard thousands of kilometres away – the result of shock waves. This devastated the Tonga Kingdom's islands.

      Published 9 April 2010, Updated 17 January 2022 Referencing Hub articles
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