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The volcanism associated with this subduction zone is the origin of the Kermadec and Tongan island archipelagos.Out of approximately 300,000 or 310,000 square kilometres (117,000 or 118,000 sq mi) of land, over 270,000 km (1,400,000 sq mi) of continental shelf.Tracing Polynesian languages places their prehistoric origins in the Malay Archipelago, and ultimately, in Taiwan.Between about 30 BC speakers of Austronesian languages began spreading from Taiwan into Island Southeast Asia.In 1831, Jules Dumont d'Urville proposed a restriction on its use during a lecture to the Geographical Society of Paris.

Most Polynesian islands and archipelagos, including the Hawaiian Islands and Samoa, are composed of volcanic islands built by hotspots.An island group with strong Polynesian cultural traits outside of this great triangle is Rotuma, situated north of Fiji.The people of Rotuma have many common Polynesian traits but speak a non-Polynesian language.At first, the Pacific plate was subducted under the Australian plate.The Alpine Fault that traverses the South Island is currently a transform fault while the convergent plate boundary from the North Island northwards is called the Kermadec-Tonga Subduction Zone.New Zealand, Norfolk Island, and Ouvéa, the Polynesian outlier near New Caledonia, are the unsubmerged portions of the largely sunken continent of Zealandia.

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