The Median Tectonic Zone in Eastern Fiordland, SW New Zealand, comprises a tectonically disrupted belt of Mesozoic magmatic arc rocks related to subduction along the palaeo-Pacific margin of Gondwana. New ion microprobe (SHRIMP) U–Pb zircon ages confirm that the bulk of the plutonic rocks in eastern Fiordland range from Mid-Jurassic to Early Cretaceous (168–137 Ma) in age. Carboniferous age granitoids occur in SW Fiordland, along the western side of, and within the zone. Triassic plutonic rocks appear to be restricted to the eastern side of the zone. The Mid-Jurassic–Early Cretaceous igneous rocks (collectively referred to as the Darran Suite) are cut by several plutons of Na-rich granitoid (Separation Point Suite) that give ages of c. 124 Ma, slightly older than equivalent rocks in the NW part of the South Island. Early Cretaceous granulite facies orthogneisses (126–119 Ma) in western Fiordland (Western Fiordland Orthogneiss) are considered to be the lower crustal equivalent of the Separation Point plutons.
The majority of the Darran Suite rocks are I-type, hornblende-bearing calc-alkaline igneous rocks, most likely derived from melting in the mantle wedge above a subducting slab of oceanic lithosphere. In contrast, the Separation Point-type plutons are Na-rich, alkali-calcic granitoids with high concentrations of Sr (typically >500 ppm and up to 1000 ppm) and low concentrations of Y (≤5 ppm) and heavy REE (<10 times chondritic). Isotopic compositions are primitive, with 87Sr/86Sr initial ratios of c. 0.7038, and åNd values of c. +3 at 120 Ma. Their geochemistry is consistent with melting of a mafic protolith of garnet amphibolite mineralogy. Mafic Darran Suite rocks have the appropriate chemical and isotopic compositions to generate the Western Fiordland Orthogneiss and the higher level Separation Point type plutons. We suggest that the sudden appearance of large volumes of Na-rich magma during the Early Cretaceous was triggered tectonically, perhaps by thrusting of the Median Tectonic Zone arc beneath western New Zealand. Melting of basal arc underplate at depths of >40 km would then have generated Na-rich granitoids, leaving residues of garnet + clinopyroxene + amphibole.