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Lower Waitaki


Management of the Waitaki River has been separated into two Zones under the Canterbury Water Management Strategy (CWMS). The second zone is the Upper Waitaki, which includes the Tasman River.

The geographical are of the lower Waitaki River, begins below the Waitaki damwhere the lowland section of the river starts to braid. The video above shows how badly the river is affected by introduced weed species including willow and gorse. Some islands have been cleared of weeds as part of an ongoing research project to create suitable habitats for braided river birds, primarily black-fronted terns.

Primarily fed by the  the Upper Waitaki, an additional 2% of water flow comes from the Hakataramea River, Elephant Hill and Waikakahi Streams, Awakino River, Otekaieke River, Maerewhenua River, Welcome Creek/Whakapapa Ariki, and Wainono lagoon and its tributaries including the Waihao and Hook Rivers and the Makikihi and Otaio Rivers.

The Zone includes all of the Waimate District and part of Waitaki District (including the rural towns of Duntroon and Kurow).


Biodiversity and cultural significance

Extract from the Lower Waitaki Zone Implementation Programme (page 8): ‘Small rivers and streams (including the Hakataramea River, Elephant Hill and Waikakahi Streams, Awakino River, Otekaieke River, Maerewhenua River, and Welcome Creek/Whakapapa Ariki) flow into the main stream. Collectively these tributaries, which have peak flows in winter, provide two percent of the river flow…

The Lower Waitaki River is noted for its indigenous fisheries, including tuna (eel), inaka kōkopu and kōaro (whitebait), kanakana (lamprey) and waikōura (freshwater crayfish), with aua (yellow-eyed mullet) and mohoao (black flounder) being found at the mouth…

Native fish found in the catchment include long-finned and short-finned eels, kanakana/lamprey, kōaro, common river galaxias, common bully and upland bully. The Hakataramea valley provides important habitat for New Zealand’s most threatened and rarest fish, the Lowland longjaw galaxias (Galaxias cobitinis). This galaxis is currently only known from two locations in the Hakataramea Valley.’

Important Bird Areas on the Waitaki River 7-page PDF file that includes maps, habitat types, and threats relevant to this river. This document was extracted from Forest & Bird’s 177-page 20Mb file on all rivers, lakes, and coastal areas.

Lower Waitaki

Lower Waitaki downstream of the Waitaki Dam with Lake Waitaki in the background

Conservation activities

More information

Research papers