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Waimea Inlet - Waimeha

Waimea Inlet is a large (3462ha), shallow, well-flushed tidal lagoon type estuary fed by the Waimea River and a number of small streams and springs. The estuary comprises two main intertidal basins, each with side arms and embayments, some separated by causeways, and numerous islands. It discharges to Tasman Bay via two tidal entrances at either end of Motuora/Rabbit Island. 

The estuary has high human use and high ecological values. It is recognised as a valuable nursery area for marine and freshwater fish, is an extensive shellfish resource, and is very important for birdlife.

While dominated by intertidal sand and mudflats, the well flushed and often steeply incised estuary channels are deep and, particularly near the entrances, support a variety of cobble, gravel, sand, and biogenic (oyster, tubeworm) habitats. Salt marsh is a significant feature of the estuary (~10% of the intertidal), although has been greatly reduced from its historic extent, primarily through drainage and reclamation. Intertidal seagrass beds are sparse (~2%) and located almost exclusively near the well-flushed entrance channel and central basin of the eastern arm.

Overall, despite extensive historical habitat modification, significantly reduced habitat diversity, and large areas of mud-dominated sediments, Waimea Inlet retains many areas of very significant ecological value. However, the prevalence of mud-dominated substrate, the persistence of localised dense macroalgal beds, and pressures on salt marsh near the estuary margin from drainage and reclamation are key broad scale habitat stressors that threaten these values. Reductions in sediment loads, targeted management of localised nutrient inputs, and facilitating landward migration of salt marsh in response to sea level rise will be required to improve estuary condition.

Estuary sediments are co-monitored by Nelson City Council (1 site) and Tasman District Council (4 sites).

Estuary summary

What makes my estuary unique?

Explore the characteristics of this estuary


Estuary characteristics

  • Significant features
    • 278.1 ha intertidal salt marsh 
    • 36.1 ha intertidal seagrass 
    • 1132.9 ha sand-dominated sediments
    • 1313.6 ha mud-dominated sediments
  • Total area
    3462 hectares
  • Flushing time
    <3 days

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.

Monitored sites 1

Select a monitored site from the list below

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