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Manawatu

The Manawatu River catchment covers an area of 5,898 square km. The river itself is 235 km long with a total stream length in the catchment of 9,648 km. The catchment has a number of large tributaries including the Oroua (131 km), Mangatainoka (71 km), Mangahao (86 km), Pohangina (71 km) and Tiraumea (69 km) rivers.

The headwaters of the Manawatu River are situated in the Ruahine Ranges, northwest of Norsewood. The river is unique in that it begins on the eastern side of a main divide and winds its way to the Tasman Sea on the western side of the range at Foxton Beach. This means the river predates the geological formation of the ranges.

The river's name comes from the Māori words manawa (heart, spirit) and tū (stand still, or depressed) and Manawatu translates to heart standing still with sadness. It was named by Haunui who was in pursuit of his wife when he arrived at the river clutching his chest. The river was the key transport route for Rangitaane o Manawatu and continues to have great cultural significance for them and other iwi including Ngati Raukawa and Ngati Kauwhata.

The major land use in the Manawatu catchment is agricultural (70%) with more than 50% used for sheep and beef farming while dairy farming accounts for 17%. Native bush, mostly within the conservation areas of the Ruahine and Tararua Ranges, accounts for a further 17%. Palmerston North is the largest urban area within the catchment with many smaller communities serving agricultural areas.

Water quality in the Manawatu catchment has declined over recent decades. However, Horizons is taking action to halt the decline and begin reversing the trend. Discharges of untreated sewage and industrial effluent, once common in the Manawatu, are no longer permitted to be pumped into the river.

The Manawatu River Leaders Forum, organised by Horizons, brought together environmentalists, industry, agriculture, local government and iwi representatives to commit to improving water quality in the catchment. The signing of the Manawatu River Accord in 2010 was a breakthrough in acknowledging that water quality needs improving, and the 2011 action plan lists the tasks and responsibilities of each group.

Some sites are monitored weekly during the summer. Check the Horizons website for more details.

Sites 57

Monitored sites in the Manawatu catchment

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