An episode of late Miocene-Recent essentially basaltic volcanism is the latest in a sequence of magmatic events recognised in the tectonically complex geological development of the Northland Peninsula. New K-Ar dates together with an extensive collection of new major and trace element chemical analyses prompt a reassessment of the significance of these late Cenozoic basalts. The main time/space groupings recognised are Tertiary volcanics in the Kaikohe-Bay of Islands, Puhipuhi, Ti Point, and Stony Batter areas and Quaternary basalts in the Kaikohe-Bay of Islands and Whangarei areas and at Tara. Basalts in the Kaikohe-Bay of Islands area are transitional to alkalic in character, while those in the south are transitional to tholeiitic, with the Ti Point and Stony Batter rocks being geochemically distinct. A consistent model for these observations is that the magmas originate from different levels of a layered mantle source in which the upper part carries a geochemical signature inherited from an earlier subduction event. (author). 27 refs., 7 figs., 1 tab.