A synchronous textural variation in intercorrelated, high-resolution sediment records from floodplain, continental-shelf, and continental-slope settings of the eastern North Island, New Zealand, provides evidence of increased storminess after ca. 4 ka. An upcore change in sediment texture reflects the transition to landsliding, which supplanted fluvial incision as the dominant mode of sediment production in the middle Holocene. This signal, which appears in all three records, indicates a regional response to external forcing and records the impact of an intensified atmospheric circulation marking the establishment of the contemporary climate that is strongly influenced by the El Niño–Southern Oscillation. The change in climate was a hemispheric event, and in the Southern Hemisphere its timing is confirmed by independent proxy records from elsewhere in New Zealand and the circum–South Pacific region.