At the peak of the last glaciation about 20,000 years ago, global temperatures were about 6°C below the current average. Ocean water was locked up in massive ice sheets, so sea levels were 120–130 metres lower than they are today. This extended the land area of New Zealand and many islands were joined. By 12,000 years ago the temperature had warmed and the sea was only about 70 metres below present levels. The North and South islands became separate.
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Source: GNS Science