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Whareama Estuary

Whareama Estuary is a long, narrow, tidal river estuary on the Wairarapa coast. It’s enclosed within a steep valley and is relatively shallow. The estuary margin is dominated by grassland and is generally devoid of saltmarsh vegetation except for a narrow strip in the lower section. 

Annual environmental health monitoring, which began at two sites in 2008, was paused in 2016.

The catchment includes significant areas of forest, but land-use is dominated by grazing. The hilly terrain, dominant soft rock type, and prevalence of grazing in the catchment causes excessive amounts of fine sediment to enter the estuary. This makes the water turbid and the bed muddy, except in the very lowest reaches where firm sands dominate. 

Saltwater extends up to 12 kilometres inland and the water column is often stratified with freshwater overlying salty seawater. There is moderate algal growth at times and a distinctive green colouration from high phytoplankton growth in the water column. However, frequent floods flush these growths from the estuary into the surrounding ocean before they become a problem. 

Estuary summary

What makes my estuary unique?

Explore the characteristics of this estuary


Estuary characteristics

  • Significant features

    The dunes immediately to the south of the river mouth is included in the Whareama River Mouth Recommended Area for Protection, although this area is only partially fenced, and stock have full access.

    The mudflats of the site are an ecosystem unique in the ecological district, and the only other similar area in the Wellington Region is the Hutt River estuarine system.

  • Tide
    Tidal influence up to 17 km upstream
  • Key rivers
    • Whareama 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.

Monitored sites 2

Select a monitored site from the list below

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