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We report new, highly precise, U–Pb and Ar/Ar ages for seven Cretaceous rhyolites, tuffs and granites from across Zealandia spanning a 30 Ma period from arc magmatism to continental break-up. Combined with previously published data, these reveal a strong episodicity in Cretaceous silicic magmatism outside the Median Batholith. 112 Ma tuffs are known only from the Eastern Province in association with a Cretaceous normal fault system. Both 101 and 97 Ma groups of rhyolites and tuffs occur across the entire width and half the length of Zealandia from near the palaeotrench to the continental interior, indicating widespread and effectively instantaneous extension. We attribute an increase in A-type character with time (112–101–97–88–82 Ma) to the progressive thinning of the Zealandia continental crust whereby, with time, there is less opportunity for crustal contamination. Extension directions associated with 101, 97 and 82 Ma magmatism and associated core complex exhumation across Zealandia are all oriented c. 30° oblique to the margin. These observations suggest Zealandia rifting was controlled by either >83 Ma capture of Zealandia by the Pacific Plate and/or <83 Ma Zealandia–West Antarctica spreading, rather than by laterally migrating triple junctions, slab windows or plume heads.

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