Unit | Levels: 3-4 | About the environment: Learn about the species that depend on our estuaries - the places where freshwater and saltwater meet.


Published: August 2009

Plants and animals that live in our estuaries have adapted to a constantly changing environment based on the tidal cycles, as well as the freshwater and sediment that comes from the surrounding land.

The Harbours, bays and estuaries resource explores the impact of land-based activities on coastal communities.

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About the resource

Plants and animals that live in our estuaries have adapted to a constantly changing environment based on the tidal cycles, as well as the freshwater and sediment (material like soil and plant matter) that comes from the surrounding land.

Gives an introduction to the student resources, provides a glossary and links, provides possible activities for teachers to give students, teachers notes, links to curriculum.

Student resources 

In these brochures three scientists answer questions about some of the plants and animals that depend on our estuaries for at least part of their life cycle.

Getting muddy with cockles

MAF scientist Richard Ford answers these questions:

  • What are cockles?
  • How to they eat?
  • Where do they live?
  • Do cockles have predators?
  • How old do they live to be?
  • What impact do humans have on cockle numbers?

Whitebait in our waters

DOC scientist Dave West answers these questions:

  • What are whitebait? What do they grow up to be?
  • Can you desribe the life cycle of galaxiids?
  • What do adult galaxiids eat?
  • Why are clean streams important to galaxiids?
  • How do we affect their habitat by what we do on the land?

Our prized snapper

Ecologist Mark Morrison answers these questions:

  • How are snapper born?
  • Can you give an example of an important snapper nursery?
  • Are there ways to restore some estuaries that may have been good snapper nurseries?
  • What other snapper research are you involved with? 

Learning outcomes

Students will understand that:

  • Coastal marine communities and environs are affected by land-based activities such as farming, property development and land clearance.
  • Some marine species survival is affected by the health of estuaries, streams and waterways that feed into coastal waters.
  • The survival of a healthy coastline is the responsibility of all New Zealanders. Peoples’ activities impact on the environment.
  • The actions of individuals and groups of people can have a positive impact on the environment.

Unit title

  • Harbours, bays and estuaries

Learning areas

  • Science
  • Social Science

Links to curriculum

  • Participating and Contributing
  • Living World – Ecology


  • Levels 3 and 4

Geographical location for topic

  • Harbours, bays and estuaries in New Zealand

Unit or achievement standard

  • N/A 


  • Animals
  • Plants
  • Harbours and estuaries
  • Marine
  • People


This resource also allows teachers to select achievement objectives from other curriculum learning areas. Teachers could select from Curriculum Strand: English Levels 3 and 4 Speaking, Writing and Presenting Listening, Reading and Viewing.

Developed by the Ministry of Fisheries and the Department of Conservation.

Written by Shelley Farr Biswell, Teacher resource developed and written by Sue Clement.

Online ISBN 978-0-478-11919-4


Whare Kaupapa Atawhai / Conservation House Head Office
Phone:   +64 4 471 0726
Address:   18-32 Manners Street
Wellington 6011
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