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Ashley Estuary/Te Aka Aka

Ashley Estuary/Te Aka Aka is a large tidal lagoon in North Canterbury, fed by the Ashley River/Rakahuri, Saltwater Creek, and Taranaki Creek.

The main pressures on the estuary are nutrient and sediment run-off from rural land use, and habitat disturbance by vehicles and horses driving and riding into the estuary.

The health of benthic communities within Ashley Estuary/Te Aka Aka are highly impacted.

The location of the Ashley River/Rakahuri channel within the estuary changes over time due to flood events, which can change sediment levels on the intertidal mudflats.

The estuary is home to an abundance of native wading and seabirds and is an important spawning site for whitebait/inanga. The area has a rich history and cultural significance to mana whenua and is an important site for mahinga kai.

Estuary summary

What makes my estuary unique?

Explore the characteristics of this estuary


Estuary characteristics

  • Significant features
    • The largest hill-fed river estuary in North Canterbury
    • Classified as an Area of Significant Natural Value for its coastal salt marsh and estuarine ecosystem.
    • Part of the Ashley Rakahuri Regional Park and used for a range of recreational activities including the gathering of mahinga kai.
    • Internationally important site for native and seasonal birdlife, including the iconic bar-tailed godwit/kuaka that uses the estuary as a stop-off point.
  • Total area
    230 hectares
  • Total shoreline length
    4 km
  • Flushing time
    0.75 days
  • Key rivers
    • Ashley River/Rakahuri
    • Saltwater Creek
    • Waikuku Stream

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.

Ashley River/Rakahuri Catchment
Lower Ashley Catchment
Saltwater Creek

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

See this site

Monitored sites 1

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