Kakanui volcaniclastic deposits on the South Island of New Zealand are the remnants of two late Eocene to early Oligocene Surtseyan-type cones. Eruptive-dominated material of the (i) stratified tuff and lapilli tuff, and (ii) lapilli tuff breccia lithofacies and post-eruptive debris of the (iii) shell-rich tuff and lapilli tuff, and (iv) chaotic and cross-bedded tuff and lapilli tuff lithofacies compose the deposits. The 9–250 m thick stratified tuff and lapilli tuff contains grain-flow deposits originating from low-volume tephra jets and local thinning and fining upward sequences that formed from density currents during sustained uprush. The lapilli tuff breccia, up to 4.5 m thick, contains inward-dipping beds deposited via debris flows along inner-cone walls. Burrows and articulated shells in the 2–4 m thick shell-rich tuff and lapilli tuff indicate volcanic quiescence and low sedimentation rates, whereas shell fragments upsection signal increased wave and current activity. Burrows, pyrite concretions, and mudstone in the lower part of the 26 m thick chaotic tuff and lapilli tuff indicate suspension deposition and cessation in pyroclastic volcanism. High-angle trough cross-beds and limestone rip-up fragments upsection are consistent with wave-induced current reworking. The depositional model involves a Surtseyan-type eruption on a continental shelf, followed by colonization of organisms on the tops of planed-off cones. The Kakanui deposits comprise a cluster of cones constituting part of a late Eocene – early Oligocene monogenetic volcanic field. The Kakanui succession provides an opportunity to study deposits that form from explosive subaqueous pyroclastic eruptions and wave-dominated deposition and erosion.