EARTHSCI 205/205G : New Zealand: Half a Billion Years on the Edge


2024 Semester Two (1245) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Take a 500 million year journey through time following the geologic and biologic development of New Zealand from humble beginnings on the edge of the ancient supercontinent Gondwana to the present day geologically dynamic land mass beset by volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and massive erosion as a consequence of being located on the edge of the Earth's largest tectonic plate.

Course Overview

New Zealand is a unique geologic laboratory.  Nowhere else in the world can you see such a variety of active geologic processes within such a small and easily-traveled area.  Anyone living or studying in New Zealand should be curious about our many and varied landscapes, and how these developed.  We take you throughout the country looking at the evidence for their formation, and also to see what is going on under your feet today. 

5 main themes, in chronologic order, are covered during the course:
  • New Zealand’s beginnings – where and how New Zealand originated on a supercontinental margin;
  • New Zealand’s mid-life crisis – how New Zealand came to be isolated in the Pacific;
  • New Zealand’s later years – development of New Zealand’s unique geologic features and biota;
  • Modern New Zealand – the consequences of New Zealand’s unique modern location “On The Edge”;
  • Humans and New Zealand – how human settlers have affected New Zealand and its biota

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: 75 points passed

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: People and Place
Capability 3: Knowledge and Practice
Capability 6: Communication
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Understand and describe New Zealand's geologic origins and geologic history (Capability 1, 3 and 6)
  2. Understand and describe New Zealand's present geographic location and the unique consequences of this (Capability 1, 3 and 6)
  3. Understand and describe the history of some of New Zealand's unique biota (Capability 1, 3 and 6)
  4. Describe and discuss some of the the impacts of humans on New Zealand and its biota (Capability 1, 3 and 6)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Assignments 30% Individual Coursework
Reports 30% Individual Coursework
Final Exam 40% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4
Final Exam


Tuākana Science is a multi-faceted programme for Māori and Pacific students providing topic specific tutorials, one-on-one sessions, test and exam preparation and more. Explore your options at

As part of the University-wide Tuākana community, The School of Environment Tuākana Programme aims to provide a welcoming learning environment for and enhance the success of, all of our Māori and Pacific students. We are led by the principles of tautoko (support) and whanaungatanga (connection) and hope you find a home here at the School. Students who have identified as Māori and/or Pacific will receive an invitation to our online portal introducing the Programme, the resources we have available, and how you can get involved.
Māori and Pacific students are encouraged to contact Sonia Fonua ( or Kimoro Taiepa ( for information about the Tuākana programme.

Key Topics

The following topics are covered during the course (generally in this order):
  • Basic geologic concepts
  • The establishment of basement New Zealand against the margin of Gondwana
  • New Zealand's early fauna - from shellfish to marine reptiles and dinosaurs
  • New Zealand's departure from Gondwana - its near demise then resurrection
  • New Zealand's unique fauna - land birds, whales, penguins
  • Active New Zealand on a major plate boundary - why we have volcanoes, geothermal energy, and the Alpine Fault
  • Modern New Zealand  - our volcanoes, earthquake risk, and rapid erosion
  • Human impacts on modern New Zealand

Special Requirements

A final mark of 50% or greater is required to pass the course, and sitting the exam is compulsory (although an exam pass is not mandatory to pass the course).  The final grade will consist of an aggregate of marks from all of the following – assignments, report, and the final exam.

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15-point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15-point course that they are enrolled in.  The following time inputs are indicative of what a student may spend on this course:

  • During the course - 22 hours of lectures (22 x 1 hour, includes assignment introduction and feedback);  50 hours of independent reading;  48 hours of assignments (geoflyer; report; biography);
  • Additionally - 27 hours of exam preparation;  3 hours of the exam.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is expected at scheduled classes including lectures and laboratories/tutorials to complete components of the course. Lectures will be available as recordings but other learning activities including laboratories/tutorials will not be available as recordings.

Attendance on campus is required for the final examination.

The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable .

Learning Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

  • Relevant readings and references are given during each lecture.
  • For those unfamiliar with some of the geologic concepts introduced any introductory-level geology text will fill in the necessary details.  The following is recommended:  Marshak, S., 2012.  Earth: Portrait of a Planet (Fourth Edition). W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-393-93518-9.  Available for purchase at UBS and for a loan from the General Library.  Note: any edition would be suitable.

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

No changes will be made to the course for 2023

Other Information

Course content-related communications:
All course content-related discussions, questions, etc., for the course, will be conducted through Piazza.  Personal matters will still be dealt with through email, but course content-related questions will not be responded to.  You are encouraged to ask questions when you are struggling to understand concepts.  The quicker you begin asking questions on Piazza the quicker you will benefit from the collective knowledge of your classmates and instructors.

Email policy:
Emails will only be responded to during normal weekday working hours so please do not expect rapid responses outside these times.  As a courtesy, and to ensure a more rapid response, ensure the following:
  • emails should be sent from your University of Auckland email account
  • include your name and student ID# in the email
  • the subject line should clearly indicate the course number and what the email concerns
  • emails should be written in a professional manner, spell-checked, and proof-read before sending
  • do not use text or social media-type speak in emails

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed for potential plagiarism or other forms of academic misconduct, using computerised detection mechanisms.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course students may be asked to submit coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

Published on 31/10/2023 10:51 a.m.