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Okains Bay/Kawatea

Okains Bay/Kawatea is located on the north-eastern side of Banks Peninsula’s and is a tidal river mouth with several sand and mud flats.

Current pressures to the health of the estuary are sediment during high rainfall events and rural land use run-off, and vehicle and recreational use during the summer months. 


Shore, sea and wading birds, including several native at-risk species, use the estuary and adjacent shore to feed, roost, and nest. It’s also an important spawning ground for sand flounder/pātiki, access way for whitebait and eels, and habitat for cockles.

Okains Bay/Kawatea has significant heritage and cultural values for mana whenua and is a popular recreational spot, particularly in the summer.  

Estuary summary

What makes my estuary unique?

Explore the characteristics of this estuary


Estuary characteristics

  • Significant features
    • Largest estuary on Banks Peninsula
    • First landing place of Ngāi Tahu on Banks Peninsula, and historic pā site.
    • Has diverse aquatic vegetation and is an important spawning site and habitat for fish and eels.
    • Habitat for several shore, sea and wading bird species.
  • Total area
    46 hectares
  • Total shoreline length
  • Flushing time
    2.4 days
  • Key rivers
    • Opara 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.

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Monitored sites 1

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