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Canterbury/Waitaha has a variety of seascapes, from long sand and shingle beaches, mudflats, and rocky shores.

The region's estuaries support a unique array of bird, fish, mammals, invertebrates, and plant life. They are important spaces for their cultural, aesthetic, and recreational values.

Environment Canterbury monitors eight estuaries and the Christchurch City Council monitor five sites within the Avon-Heathcote Estuary/Ihutai to characterise and track changes in the health of benthic communities over time. These estuaries include large shallow intertidal dominated estuaries, coastal embayments, tidal lagoons and river mouth lagoons.  

As estuaries are a critical connection between the land and the sea, they are natural basins that accumulate sediment, nutrients, and contaminants.

In Canterbury, the main threats to the health of estuaries come from peoples' use of urban and rural land, including nutrient run-off from rural land use, sediment run-off from earthworks, and the discharge of contaminants from stormwater, wastewater, and industrial discharges.

The benthic communities in the estuaries within the Canterbury region range from 'good' to 'poor' health.