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Lake Papaitonga (Waiwiri)

Lake Papaitonga (Waiwiri) is a shallow coastal dune lake situated just south of Lake Horowhenua. Aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity values are significant for the lake, wetlands, outflow stream, and for the forested remnant on the margin of the lake. The lake and its tributaries are important habitat for brown mudfish and banded kōkopu. Horizons Regional Council attempted water quality monitoring of the lake by helicopter in 2015, but sampling was discontinued due to the water being too shallow. In 2015, NIWA assessed the ecological condition of the lake using Submerged Plant Indicators (LakeSPI). The Papaitonga Scenic Reserve is managed by the Department of Conservation.

The lake catchment area is nearly 60 per cent pasture, which is a source of lake eutrophication (nutrient enrichment) that can lead to increased plant growth and/or algal blooms. The lake is located within a target catchment for nutrient management under Horizons Regional Council’s One Plan.

Within Papaitonga Scenic Reserve is Lake Waiwiri, a dune lake that provides an important sanctuary for recovering wetlands birds. The reserve gets its name (Papaitonga) from one of the lake islands.

Nature and conservation of Papaitonga Scenic Reserve

Papaitonga Scenic Reserve is an important refuge for birds that depend on wetlands or lowland forests for their survival. It is home to waterfowl and wading birds, as well as forest species on the lake's margins.

Lake Waiwiri and its surrounds make up 135 ha of scenic reserve. Wetland and lush coastal forest surround the lake.

Within the reserve is the only intact sequence from wetland to mature dry terrace forest in Wellington and Horowhenua.

The wetland forest associations of kahikatea/pukatea, tawa and pukatea-tawa-swamp maire are now rare.

The mānuka growing on the forested side is habitat for the rare leafless mistletoe Korthalsella salicornioides.

History and culture of Papaitonga Scenic Reserve

Lake Waiwiri formed in a depression behind sand dunes deposited 35,000 years ago, where water from several sources accumulated. Within the lake are two islands; Papaitonga is the larger of the two islands, Karaka was brought to the island and it continues to grow in thick groves.

The Muaūpoko people in the late 18th to early 19th century constructed the smaller of the two islands, Papawhārangi. During this period Muaūpoko also constructed islands on Lake Waipunahau (Horowhenua), which have become part of the shoreline.

Papawhārangi was formed by forcing poles into the lake bottom to define the island's outline, then filling them with pūrei and kākahi shells. Pūrei is a tussock-forming sedge that was taken from the edge of the lake with earth still attached to its roots, then tossed into the water inside the poles. Cast upon the pūrei were kākahi shells, onto which canoeloads of soil were thrown.

Papaitonga Scenic Reserve information source: Department of Conservation (

Lake Summary
  • Lake size
  • Maximum depth
  • Catchment size
  • Mixing pattern
  • Geomorphic type
Scientific data for this lake

This dashboard shows information on the data collected by the regional councils and unitary authorities for two lake water quality and ecological condition measurements. LakeSPI (Lake Submerged Plant Indicators) and TLI (Trophic Level Index).  Select an indicator to see the historical monitoring data.

  • Water Quality

    Trophic Level Index (TLI)

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    This measure is the Trophic Level Index (TLI). The TLI indicates the life supporting capacity of a lake and is based on four water quality indicators.

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    Trophic Level Index (TLI) history for this lake

    Trophic Level Indicator (TLI) which measures four parameters: water clarity, chlorophyll content, total phosphorus and total nitrogen. From these parameters a TLI value is calculated. In cases where water clarity data is missing a three parameter TLI is calculated. The higher the value, the greater the nutrients and fertility of the water which encourages growth, including algal blooms. As a rule, higher TLI scores mean poorer water quality. View a factsheet on TLI

    TLI history for Lake Papaitonga (Waiwiri)

    What do the icons mean?

    Very good water quality. Trophic Level Index of 0-2. Microtrophic lake conditions.
    Good water quality. Trophic Level Index of 2-3. Oligotrophic lake conditions.
    Average water quality. Trophic Level Index of 3-4. Mesotrophic lake conditions.
    Poor water quality. Trophic Level Index of 4-5. Eutrophic lake conditions.
    Very poor water quality. Trophic Level Index of greater than 5. Supertrophic lake conditions.
    No data available.
    TLI history for Lake Papaitonga (Waiwiri) data table
    Year TLI Score
    Year TLI Score
  • Ecological Conditions

    Lake Submerged Plant Indicators (LakeSPI)

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    The LakeSPI status describes the ecological condition of the lake and is based on plants present.

    LakeSPI data provided by NIWA

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    LakeSPI history for this lake

    LakeSPI (Lake Submerged Plant Indicators) is a method of characterising the ecological condition of lakes based on the composition of native and invasive plants growing in them. A higher LakeSPI percentage result is associated with better ecological health:

    LakeSPI N/A
    LakeSPI {{spiData.details.Value}}%

    The overall LakeSPI score is calculated using a Native Condition Index ('good' plants) and an Invasive Impact Index (introduced, non-native plants):

    Native Condition N/A
    Native Condition {{spiData.details.NativeIndex}}%
    Invasive Impact N/A
    Invasive Impact {{spiData.details.InvasiveIndex}}% NA

    A higher Native Condition value indicates better ecological condition, but a higher Invasive Impact value indicates invasive plants are negatively impacting native plant communities.
    View a factsheet on LakeSPI for more information on these indicators.

    • LakeSPI
    • Native Condition
    • Invasive Impact
    LakeSPI history for Lake Papaitonga (Waiwiri)

    What is this graph showing me?

    This graph is displaying the overall LakeSPI score over time. The results denote the ecological condition of the lake.

    Excellent ecological health. A LakeSPI score of 75-100%.
    High ecological health. A LakeSPI score of 50-75%.
    Moderate ecological health. A LakeSPI score of 20-50%.
    Poor ecological health. A LakeSPI score of 0-20%.
    Non-vegetated. A LakeSPI score of 0% (there are no plants present).
    No data available.
    LakeSPI history for Lake Papaitonga (Waiwiri) data table
    Sample Date LakeSPI Status LakeSPI % Native Condition Index % Invasive Impact Index %
    LakeSPI information has been provided by NIWA.

Monitored sites on Lake Papaitonga (Waiwiri)

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