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Wakapuaka River

The Wakapuaka River is one of the largest rivers in the Nelson region with a catchment of 6,500 ha and mean flow of two cumecs at Hira. It is located just north of the main urban area and drains a variety of land uses including plantation forest, protection forest, farming, and lifestyle blocks. Production and protection forest dominates the upper catchment and the steeper side slopes of the lower catchment. Farming is mainly restricted to valley bottoms and lower slopes.

The coastal estuarine area is important for the mix of tree species that has developed over time and because similar areas have largely been lost elsewhere in Nelson due to land reclamation.
The geology of the area has been strongly influenced by the Waimea Fault, which extends from near Lake Rotoiti to Taranaki. Two distinctly different rock types, the “Brook Street Volcanics” and the “Maitai Group” are separated by the fault. Most of the Wakapuaka Valley is comprised of Brook Street Volcanics, which helps to produce the valley’s fertile soils. In comparison, most of the bedrock that underlies the Upper Wakapuaka catchment is the Maitai Group, which lacks volcanic debris and is less fertile.

The Wakapuaka River rises in the lowland hill country of the Bryant Range. The area is dominated by both production and protection forestry. There are three headwaters tributaries – the Teal and Lud rivers and Slaters Creek. The river then travels through the lowland hill country and emerges onto the lowland flats. Land use in this area is dominated by farming on the river flats with mainly production forest on the upper slopes, although some native forest remnants remain.

Below the confluence of the headwaters tributaries at Hira Village the river flows through lowland and coastal flats along with associated river terraces. Land use on the flats and terraces includes farming along with an increasing number of small holdings. On the mid slopes there are extensive areas of production forest and native forest remains on many of the upper slopes.

In its lower reaches, the river opens out into the extensive estuary of Delaware Inlet. The area includes Delaware and Pepin Spits, the Cable Bay / Pepin Island Boulder Bank, Bishops Peninsula and saline flats between. The coastal area is unique with a range of ecosystems including the Boulder Bank, estuaries, dunes and freshwater wetlands, enclosed by coastal hill country, flats and alluvial terraces.

Sites 9

Monitored sites in the Wakapuaka River catchment

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Scientific Indicators
Scientific data for this catchment

This dashboard shows information on the data collected by the regional councils for water quality indicators, analysed as state and trend.

The state for the catchment is represented by the median concentration for the parameter across all sites within the catchment and then compares that value to the quartiles for all monitored sites in New Zealand.

Click on the parameters state icons to compare this catchment with others in the region.

  • State

    State shows how the median of samples from this site compares to other sites

  • Trend

    Trend shows how the quality of water is changing over time. Depending on the sampling history duration, five and ten year timescales are available:

Can I trust this data?

The Cawthron Institute has worked alongside regional councils to verify the processes and methods used for data collection, laboratory analysis of samples collected and the statistical analysis and interpretation of the results presented.

If all Cawthron ticks are green, then you can trust this data. However, if one or more ticks are orange, then conclusions should be treated with some caution.

For more details on each tick, see our 'Can I Trust This Data?' Factsheet.

Can I trust the data?
Data Collection

All samples were collected using approved field protocols and have been analysed in accredited laboratories. Therefore the data shown here has been collected and analysed following best practice.


This site is not sampled during high flows so the data shown only represents base flow conditions. Proposed national guidelines recommend sampling during both low and high flows to get a full picture of water quality at the site.

Trend - Adjustment for flow

This data is not flow adjusted. National guidelines suggest that flow-sensitive variables are flow 'adjusted' before trend analysis. Therefore, any trends shown here may be affected by variations in flow across sampling occasions.


E. coli



Black disc





Total Nitrogen


Total Oxidised Nitrogen


Ammoniacal Nitrogen



Dissolved Reactive Phosphorus


Total Phosphorus

Download Data

.ZIP file of indicator readings for all sites in New Zealand

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