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Conway River/Piri-tūtae-putaputa

The Conway River is in the Waiau-Hurunui management zone (WHZ) which covers 6,095 square kilometres and is home to over 11,500 people. The river starts in the Amuri Range near Palmer Saddle and runs for 30 km south-east through the Hundalee Hills at the south end of the Seaward Kaikoura Ranges before turning north-east and reaching the Pacific Ocean 30 km south of Kaikoura. Limestone Stream and the Charwell River are tributaries of the Conway.

The upper reaches of the Conway River catchment are dominated by native vegetation, and the middle and lower reaches are mainly used for beef and sheep finishing, cropping and dairying. Two sites are monitored routinely on the Conway  River for water quality as part of Environment Canterbury’s state of environment (SoE) monitoring programme. Another site, on the Charwell River has been monitored in the past. These sites represent upper and lower reaches of hill-fed rivers. 

Increasing pressure is being placed on the Conway by intensifying land-use and increased demand for water supplies. Lowland areas are the worst affected. The best water quality is often found in the upper reaches of the Conway where there has been less change to the catchment and less human activity. The poorest water quality is typically found at sites nearer the coast where waterways are under pressure from increasing land-use intensification.

The upper reaches of the Conway River have high water quality and low concentrations of nutrients and bacteria. This is typical of alpine / hill-fed rivers dominated by natural vegetation. In the lower reaches nutrient concentrations and bacterial indicators increase. Sources of bacterial contamination are likely to include the effects of intensive land-use in the middle catchment area and birds living in the riverbed. The bacterial quality of the river at State Highway 1 is often poor during summer, which reduces the recreational value of the river.

Sites 4

Monitored sites in the Conway River/Piri-tūtae-putaputa catchment

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