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Waitematā Harbour (Central)

The Central Waitematā Harbour is a large, shallow, drowned valley estuary system on the east coast that drains into the Hauraki Gulf. It is comprised of several sub-estuaries and a main basin. The harbour has several Significant Ecological Areas with a diversity and complexity of habitats that support thousands of migratory and local wading birds.

The Tāmaki Makaurau urban area surrounds the harbour and puts it under significant pressure. There is extensive modification along the southern shoreline with areas of intense development. The harbour is also home to the city’s port and is a busy public transport and recreational boating area. Exposed sites along the northern coastline are generally in good health, while sites in the Whau Estuary and areas of the southern shoreline are impacted by mud and metal contamination.

A lava flow extending from the southern shoreline of the harbour, known as Te Tokaroa (Meola) Reef, houses unique habitats and distinct flora and fauna that are nationally important, and the Henderson Creek, Whau Estuary and Hobson Bay sub-estuaries contain some of the finest examples of mangrove habitats in the region. Another ecologically significant feature is Motu Manawa/Pollen Island Marine Reserve, a low-lying island with extensive shell banks, mangroves, saltmarsh and sandflats.

The Central Waitematā Harbour is under pressure from non-native, invasive species. More than 60 species have been recorded in the harbour. There have been recent incursions from the algae Undaria pinnatifida, the sea squirt Styella clava, and the Mediterranean fanworm Sabella spallanzanii.

Estuary summary

What makes my estuary unique?

Explore the characteristics of this estuary


Estuary characteristics

  • Significant features
    • Motu Manawa / Pollen Island Marine Reserve
    • Te Tokaroa / Meola Reef
    • Within the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park
    • Several Significant Ecological Areas are identified within the estuary as defined in the Auckland Unitary Plan
  • Total area
    ~7000 hectares
  • Total shoreline length
    ~130 km
  • Key rivers
    • Lucas Creek
    • Oakley Creek
    • Meola Creek
    • Avondale Stream
    • Whau River

What's happening upstream?

See results from monitored river quality sites influencing this estuary

River quality

What's happening upstream?

The physical characteristics and health of estuaries are influenced by the rivers and streams flowing into them. For instance, when it rains the mud and contaminants generated on land can be washed into rivers and eventually flow into the estuary. The health of our rivers and streams can therefore be very important for Estuary Health, and understanding the upstream pressures can help with interpreting estuary monitoring data.

Monitoring is undertaken for a range of river health indicators (e.g., water quality and ecology) in many catchments across the region. Where there are monitored river catchments that influence this estuary, these are shown below. You can click through to view monitoring results from these River Quality sites to see current state and how health has changed over time.

What surrounds my estuary?

See land cover information from monitored catchments that surround this estuary

Land cover

What surrounds my estuary?

The physical characteristics and health of estuaries are influenced by local geography and the way we use our land. This is because estuaries are the receiving environments for many of our land use activities. Land cover information can be used as an indicator of land use, therefore knowing the surrounding land cover can help us understand which pressures might be affecting Estuary Health.

Where there is land cover information available for nearby catchments, these are listed below. These figures show the types of vegetation and built or natural features that surround the estuary margins and the rivers that flow into this estuary. You can click through to the Land Cover topic to see these land cover classes broken down into further detail, and view changes over time.

Lucas Creek
Oakley Creek
Waiparuru Stream
Meola Creek
Opanuku Stream
New Market Gully

What do the Broad Land Cover Classes mean?

Land cover information on LAWA is grouped into land cover classes at two levels of detail – broad and medium. For this overview we are showing the six broad-level classes for the catchment.

  • Forest

    Inclusive of; indigenous and exotic forest.

  • Scrub / shrubland

    Inclusive of; indigenous and exotic scrub / shrubland.

  • Grassland / other herbaceous vegetation

    Inclusive of; tussock and exotic grassland and other herbaceous vegetation.

  • Cropland

    Inclusive of; cropping / horticulture.

  • Urban / bare / lightly-vegetated surfaces

    Inclusive of; natural bare/lightly-vegetated and artificial bare surfaces, and urban area

  • Water bodies

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Monitored sites 24

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