Three trenches excavated across the central portion of the right-lateral strike-slip Wairau Fault in South Island, New Zealand, exposed a complex set of fault strands that have displaced a sequence of late Holocene alluvial and colluvial deposits. Abundant charcoal fragments provide age control for various stratigraphic horizons dating back to c. 5610 yr ago. Faulting relations from the Wadsworth trench show that the most recent surface rupture event occurred at least 1290 yr and at most 2740 yr ago. Drowned trees in landslide-dammed Lake Chalice, in combination with charcoal from the base of an unfaulted colluvial wedge at Wadsworth trench, suggest a narrower time bracket for this event of 1811-2301 cal. yr BP. The penultimate faulting event occurred between c. 2370 and 3380 yr, and possibly near 2680 ?? 60 cal. yr BP, when data from both the Wadsworth and Dillon trenches are combined. Two older events have been recognised from Dillon trench but remain poorly dated. A probable elapsed time of at least 1811 yr since the last surface rupture, and an average slip rate estimate for the Wairau Fault of 3-5 mm/yr, suggests that at least 5.4 m and up to 11.5 m of elastic shear strain has accumulated since the last rupture. This is near to or greater than the single-event displacement estimates of 5-7 m. The average recurrence interval for surface rupture of the fault determined from the trench data is 1150-1400 yr. Although the uncertainties in the timing of faulting events and variability in inter-event times remain high, the time elapsed since the last event is in the order of 1-2 times the average recurrence interval, implying that the Wairau Fault is near the end of its interseismic period. ?? The Royal Society of New Zealand 2006.