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 18 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.