Wairua River

Wairua River

About the area

Located at the top of the Kaipara Harbour catchment, the 75,000 hectare Wairua River catchment includes the 5,000 hectare Hikurangi floodplain. Once a giant wetland, the floodplain has been largely drained and developed for agriculture, forestry, horticulture, and lifestyle blocks.

A biodiversity hotspot, the floodplain is characterised by two large wetlands (Otakairangi and Wairua), as well as dozens of small, isolated and fragmented wetland and riparian forest remnants. It also includes a very important tuna (freshwater eel) fishery.

The Wairua River flows into the Wairoa River and then into the Kaipara Harbour. The Kaipara Harbour is the largest enclosed harbour in the Southern Hemisphere, and the second largest harbour in the world. It is also known as the ‘food basket’ of Ngāti Whātua. The harbour has long been recognised as an extremely important nursery for juvenile fish and sharks, particularly snapper, grey mullet, flounder and mako and great white sharks.

The challenge

In Wairua there has been a significant loss of wetland and freshwater ecosystems. Water quality is poor due to high levels of suspended sediment. Much of this has been caused by various productive land uses in the catchment and modification of the waterway, wetland and peat soil hydrology for drainage purposes.

Living Water’s key focus is on reducing sediment loads into the Wairua River by using solutions that improve hydrologic functioning and ecological resilience of the catchment.

  • 75,000ha total catchment area
  • 4 main types of farming (dairy, horticulture, arable, forestry)
  • Fonterra dairy farms make up 36% of the catchment
  • 5,300ha total Okarika sub-catchment area
Cows crossing road

Wairua River catchment

Long-term goals

50% increase in on-farm freshwater habitat

50% sediment reduction

100% Fonterra farms engaged

Native forest from above

Our team

George Kruger

George Kruger

Fonterra Sustainable Dairying Advisor
Tim Brandenburg

Tim Brandenburg

Living Water Programme Lead
Matiu Mataira

Matiu Mataira

DOC Operations Manager
Sue Reed-Thomas

Sue Reed-Thomas

DOC Operations Director
Mike Borrie

Mike Borrie

Fonterra Regional Head Farm Source

Our farmers

Graeme & Sharon Gillett

Graeme & Sharon Gillett

Jenny Vuglar

Jenny Vuglar

Are you part of Living Water?

Are you part of Living Water?

Contact us to have your farm acknowledged and your photo added

Our partners & friends

Duncan Kervell

Duncan Kervell

Northland Regional Council
Hori Kingi

Hori Kingi

Ngā Kaitiaki O Ngā Wai Māori
Chantez Connor

Chantez Connor

Ngā Kaitiaki O Ngā Wai Māori
Helen Moodie

Helen Moodie

DairyNZ
Willie Wright

Willie Wright

Integrated Kaipara Harbour Management Group
Andrew Carvell

Andrew Carvell

Whangarei District Council
Nan Pullman

Nan Pullman

QEII Trust
Reconnecting Northland

Reconnecting Northland

Landcare Research

Landcare Research

Fish and Game, Northland

Fish and Game, Northland

Souzee McIntyre

Souzee McIntyre

Whitebait Connection
Benjamin Pittman

Benjamin Pittman

Ngā Kaitiaki O Ngā Wai Māori
Terrence Brocx

Terrence Brocx

Fonterra Shareholder's Council

Our projects

Detention Bunds

Detention Bund Trial

Determining whether detention bunds can effectively manage peak run off and reduce sediment in Northland.

Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem Services

Testing the usefulness of taking an ecosystems services approach for project planning.

Okarika Pocket Transformation

Okarika Pocket Transformation

Co-designing freshwater improvement projects with farmers, mana whenua and scientists in a sub-catchment of the Wairua River.

Wairoa Freshwater Improvement Project

Wairoa Freshwater Improvement Project

Collaborative project incorporating sustainable land management practices and the principles of mātauranga Māori to reduce sediment into the Wairoa River. 

Supporting documents