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Ōhiwa Harbour at Reserve Boat Ramp

Ōhiwa Harbour is a large shallow estuary 11km east of Whakatane and 16km west of Ōpōtiki. It is 27sq km in area, 5.5km wide and 8km long, and is home to a diverse range of marine flora and fauna.

The harbour is largely unmodified and displays large areas of saltmarsh and mangrove habitats and pockets of freshwater wetlands grading to saltmarsh. It includes the nationally significant Uretara Island, Hiwarau coastal vegetation and Pataua and Motuotu Island.

The northern end of the harbour is busy with commercial and residential activities but the scale of the harbour provides a sense of remoteness.


Ōhiwa Harbour is one of New Zealand's most unspoiled harbours and has long been special to many people for a range of reasons. People appreciate its landscapes, natural beauty, water quality, recreational activities, heritage places and values, clean air and productive land. A multitude of peninsulas, spurs and gullies form a convoluted harbour edge dotted with salt-marshes, wetlands and mudflats. There are 10 small islands in the harbour and many channels and sandbanks, which shift and meander with the tides and seasons.

The harbour is home to many types of marsh and shore birds, shellfish and fish. Ōhiwa is a haven for bird life - godwits migrate from Alaska every season to nest on its shores. Boating, sightseeing, swimming, water sports and fishing are popular activities.

Ōhiwa Harbour is one of the natural jewels of the region. Explore its islands by kayak or yacht, or spend a day jet skiing, water skiing or sail boarding. It’s also a safe swimming spot for children. The surrounding hills are dotted with pā sites, including Tauwhare Pā, near the turn-off to Ōpōtiki.

Beach Water Quality
Recreational water quality

Summer Monitoring:

Many councils monitor popular recreational sites weekly over the summer months. This lets swimmers know what the most recent bacteria (enterococci) levels were. Remember, even for sites where the monitoring has shown an acceptable to swim test result, some conditions can make them unsuitable to swim in from time to time and we recommend that you avoid swimming after heavy rainfall for 48 hours.

Overall Recreation Risk:

The Overall Recreation Risk is a guide to give a general picture of water quality at a site over the recreational bathing season. Updated annually, it is calculated from bacteria (enterococci) data collected over the last three years during the summer monitoring months. The Overall Recreation Risk indicator is a precautionary approach to managing health risk and is not designed to represent health risk on a particular day. As such, a site can have an Overall Recreation Risk of ‘Caution’ but still be suitable for swimming some of the time. 

See the factsheet on coastal and freshwater recreation monitoring for more information.

  • Summer season monitoring

    A recent snapshot based on a single sample


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    Summer season monitoring history

    • Last 4 Samples
    • All samples this season
    Enterococci sampling graph
    Enterococci sampling table
    Sample Date Status Result Observations

    What do the icons mean?

    Acceptable – continue routine monitoring
    Acceptable – Alert. Increase monitoring and investigate source
    Unacceptable – Action. Immediate re-sample, public warning issued if required, increased monitoring and investigate source
  • Overall recreation risk

    The long term risk status based on three years of data

    {{rating() | uppercase}}

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    Overall recreation risk information

    Human health for primary recreation: overall recreation risk
    Minimum data points required 30 Number of data points available {{dataPoints() | number:0}}
    Lowest Enterococci per 100ml value {{minValue() | number:0}} Highest Enterococci per 100ml value {{maxValue() | number:0}}
    Hazen percentile result {{hazenResult() | number:0}} Overall recreation risk {{rating()}}

    What do the icons mean?

    People are exposed to a very low risk of infection (less than 1%) from contact with the water.
    People are exposed to a low risk of infection (between 1 and 5%) from contact with the water.
    People are exposed to a moderate risk of infection (between 5 and 10%) from contact with the water.
    People are exposed to a high risk of infection (greater than 10%) from contact with the water.
    There are not enough data points (samples) at this site to generate an Overall Recreation Risk result.

Download Data

.ZIP file of coastal risk readings.

 LAWA Partners shall not be liable, whether in contract, tort, equity or otherwise, for any loss or damage of any type (including consequential losses) arising directly or indirectly from the inadequacy, inaccuracy or any other deficiency in information supplied irrespective of the cause.  Use of information supplied is entirely at the risk of the recipient and shall be deemed to be acceptance of this liability exclusion.

Overall Recreation Risk: Very Low Risk
When a site is classed as very low risk, the risk of illness from exposure to enterococci is less than 1%.

Overall Recreation Risk: Low Risk
When a site is classed as low risk, the risk of illness  from exposure to enterococci is between 1 and 5%.

Overall Recreation Risk: Moderate Risk
When a site is classed as moderate risk, the risk of illness  from exposure to enterococci is between 5 and 10%.

Overall Recreation Risk: Caution
When a site is classed as Caution, the risk of illness from exposure to enterococci is greater than 10%.

A minimum of 30 samples are required to calculate an overall recreation risk. For more information on this site view the Summer Season Monitoring

This data is collected by trained council staff and analysed by accredited laboratories. Regional Councils are currently reviewing the methodology of how to best calculate recreational water quality. Once new guidelines are established, they will be applied to this data and the appropriate Cawthron Tick will be given.

Recreational activities
Site suitable for these activities
  • Activity
    No information available

Beaches are a great natural  playground but they can be unpredictable. Be aware of the other potential risks such as rips or currents before jumping in.

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