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Ruakaka Estuary is a drowned river valley system located on the east coast of the Northland peninsula. The estuary is approximately ‘L’ shaped with the main channel of the Ruakaka River running approximately north-south, protected from the Pacific Ocean by a large sand barrier.

The estuary comprises a main river channel, a shallow lagoon near the entrance and a southern spur. The main Ruakaka River channel is bordered by narrow sand and mud flats with fringing mangroves and saltmarsh habitat. The outer lagoon comprises shifting sand bars and channels, with a sand spit at the entrance to the estuary. The estuary is connected to Bream Bay, a large coastal embayment, via a single inlet and is bordered on each side by sand spits.

The estuary covers an area of 0.5 km2 and receives freshwater flow from the Ruakaka River, which drains a catchment of 92 km2. The catchment consists primarily of flat land, covered predominantly with exotic grassland, for dairy and cattle faming with two patches of native forest on steeper ground on the northern and southern margins of the catchment.  The small town of Ruakaka is located along the margin of the estuary. Ruakaka was originally a small beachside community but has expanded in recent years due to its proximity to the Marsden Point oil refinery and North Port. Recent subdivision and development has occurred within the town, particularly on the barrier system, and further urban and industrial development is expected within the catchment.


Estuary summary

What makes my estuary unique?

Explore the characteristics of this estuary


Estuary characteristics

  • Significant features
    • Ruakaka estuary has been identified as a significant ecological area in the Proposed Regional Plan for Northland.
    • The estuary has been gazetted as the Ruakaka Wildlife Refuge.
  • Key rivers
    • Ruakaka River

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.

Ruakaka River

What do the Broad Land Cover Classes mean?

Land cover information on LAWA is grouped into land cover classes at two levels of detail – broad and medium. For this overview we are showing the six broad-level classes for the catchment.

  • Forest

    Inclusive of; indigenous and exotic forest.

  • Scrub / shrubland

    Inclusive of; indigenous and exotic scrub / shrubland.

  • Grassland / other herbaceous vegetation

    Inclusive of; tussock and exotic grassland and other herbaceous vegetation.

  • Cropland

    Inclusive of; cropping / horticulture.

  • Urban / bare / lightly-vegetated surfaces

    Inclusive of; natural bare/lightly-vegetated and artificial bare surfaces, and urban area

  • Water bodies
Monitored sites 2

Select a monitored site from the list below

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