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Taranaki region

River Quality

The Taranaki region, with its distinctive Taranaki Maunga and black sand beaches, lies on the west coast of the North Island. The land area of 7,200 square kilometres represents 3% of New Zealand’s landmass. The 2018 Census showed the Taranaki region had a resident population of around 118,000, which is approximately 2.5% of the country’s population.

The unspoiled environment and strong economy in Taranaki, based on the region’s natural and physical resources, contribute to the attractive lifestyle sought by many living in the province. About 60% of the region is used for intensive farming, predominantly dairying.

The main landforms are the volcanic ring plain centred on Taranaki Maunga, the hill country to the east of the ring plain, the coastal terraces and the coastal/marine environment.

There are around 530 named rivers and streams in the region. More than 300 waterways flow across the ring plain from Taranaki Maunga and are typically short, small and fast-flowing. The region’s communities, industries and farmers continue to make major investments to protect and enhance Taranaki’s freshwater resources. The last single-point discharge causing substantial freshwater pollution in Taranaki was removed in 2010. There is a move to land-based disposal of farm dairy effluent as existing consents are renewed.

Across the region, there are nearly 3000 riparian plans covering around 15,900 kilometers of streambanks. As of October 2020, plan holders have protected 88% of their waterways with fencing and planted 77% in riparian vegetation. Further to this, 99.9% of the approximately 1800 dairy farms in the Taranaki region have riparian plan.

The Council measures up to 22 parameters at 13 river and stream sites to assess physical and chemical water quality. Ecological health is measured at 59 sites on 26 rivers and streams and recreational water quality is measured at 16 popular freshwater swimming spots annually. Wildfowl and gulls are the major source of contamination at three known sites that often exceed bathing water guidelines.

Generally, water quality is poorest in lowland urban catchments, better in lowland rural catchments and best in upland forested catchments. Overall, the Council’s monitoring shows that water quality measures are either generally stable or improving, and an ever-increasing number are improving.

TRC conducts flow-adjusted water quality trend analysis based on NIWA protocols and guidelines (following Scarsbrook and McBride 2007). This information is available at