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Taieri River

The Taieri River and its catchment has an area of 5,650 km2 and is Otago’s second largest after the Clutha River/Mata-Au catchment. Rainfall throughout the Taieri catchment is highly variable and is especially low in Central Otago due to the rain shadow effect of the Alps. 

Water quality is excellent.

The Taieri River catchment has a long history of agricultural land use. The dominant land use within the catchment is farming, including, dairy, cattle, sheep, goat and deer farming, and forestry. Since the late 1990s, there has been a shift from sheep and beef farming to intensive dairy farming particularly in the lower Taieri and in the Maniototo.

The upper Taieri headwaters drain a relatively undeveloped area of native tussock country on the northern side of the Lammerlaw Range. The Taieri at Linnburn is the uppermost site, the river then flows through the dry, 660km² area of the Maniototo Plain, west of the Rock and Pillar Range. At the southern end of the Rock and Pillar Range is the man-made Logan Burn reservoir; part of the Combined Maniototo Irrigation and Hydroelectric Scheme. A secondary reservoir for this scheme is located near Paerau where Stonehenge is sampled.

The river follows an extremely meandering course through large scroll plains in the Maniototo. These are unique and scientifically important features of the upper catchment, land use in this area is increasingly used for dairy farming. Waipiata is located downstream of the scroll plains. Beyond the northern end of the Rock and Pillar Range, the Kye Burn flows into the Taieri and contributes high levels of sediment to the river. These high sediment loads may be in part due to historic gold mining activities in the Kye Burn Catchment. 

To the east of the Rock and Pillar Range, the mid-reaches of the Taieri River flow through the smaller Strath-Taieri Plain (occupying an area of 85km²), past Tiroiti, Middlemarch and Sutton, and through the spectacular Taieri Gorge. Many small tributaries join the main stem of the river along this sub-region.

Unique native fish communities (including species found only in this catchment) have recently been identified in these mid to lower catchment areas.  New Zealand’s only inland salt lake (Sutton Salt Lake) is located in this sub-region, near Sutton. Because of the unique habitats offered by this lake and its margins, the area is of high conservation significance.

Most of the human settlement within the Taieri Catchment is on the Lower Taieri Plain (occupying an area of 180km²), where the town of Mosgiel is located. The floodplain area is intensively farmed (mostly dairying).

The Taieri River enters the floodplain near Outram crosses the plain, then just above Allanton the river is joined by the Owhiro Stream and the Silver Stream, which provides high quality trout spawning and nursery habitats for the river fishery. 

Part of the lower Taieri plain lies below sea level, and the potential for flooding has resulted in extensive flood protection works, including floodbank construction and channel straightening which has significantly altered the physical habitat quality of some river reaches. Drainage water from the low-lying south west part of the Taieri floodplain is pumped by the Otago Regional Council from the lower Main Drain (which collects water from a network of drains in this area) to Lake Waipori. 

The lower Taieri River is joined by the Waipori River, which is also modified by hydro-electric schemes in its upper reaches. The man-made Lake Mahinerangi is the reservoir for the Waipori hydro-electric scheme, which is also augmented by water from the Deep Stream sub-catchment to the north. Important native fish communities have also been found in the upper Waipori Catchment.  A large floodplain and the associated Lake Waipori/Waihola wetland complex are the dominant features of the lower catchment.

The lake and wetland complex provides some of the most important habitat for native fish, wetland vegetation, and waterbirds in the region, because of its size, variety of habitats, and position. The saline influence in the lower Taieri River extends a considerable distance upstream, resulting in a back-flow of Taieri River water up the Waipori River, and into Lakes Waihola and Waipori. It has been estimated that the Taieri River contributes 70% of the water in Lake Waipori, and 99.5% of the water in Lake Waihola. The lower Taieri saline reaches provide regionally significant whitebait, sea-run trout and salmon fisheries. The importance of such fisheries is increased by the close proximity of the lower Taieri and Waipori Catchments to the major population centres of Dunedin and Mosgiel.

During the summer there is weekly monitoring at some sites. See the Otago Regional Council website for details.

Sites 10

Monitored sites in the Taieri River catchment

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