Petrological, geochemical, geochronological and palaeomagnetic data for rocks of the Northland ophiolite terrane of northern New Zealand suggest that it formed in a suprasubduction-zone setting between c. 29 and 26 Ma, at c. 35°S, close to its Late Oligocene obduction site. Cretaceous igneous rocks formerly considered to be part of the ophiolite probably represent the basement upon which the ophiolite was emplaced, and are probably part of the Mount Camel arc-related terrane. The ophiolite is believed to have been generated in the southeastern South Fiji Basin, close to a NW–SE-oriented transform fault located to the SW of the Vening Meinesz Fracture Zone, and was probably emplaced in response to the collision of the Hikurangi Plateau with eastern New Zealand at the end of the Oligocene. This collision would have involved a major adjustment on the transform fault, thereby allowing a portion of the upper-crustal section of the southern South Fiji Basin to be emplaced southwestward onto northern New Zealand as well as the coeval emplacement of the East Cape Allochthon to the south. Concomitant subduction of the lower crust–mantle section led to the initiation of arc volcanism that resulted in the Northland Lower Miocene volcanic–plutonic suite.