Nature and conservation
Pauatahanui Inlet is the largest in Porirua and the most extensive relatively unmodified estuarine area in the southern part of the North Island. The area around the inlet has been inhabited for at least the last 600 years and the area is rich with wahi tapu, archaeological sites, and historic places.
Four areas are administered by DOC within the inlet - the Pauatahanui Wildlife Management Reserve is a coastal wetland containing a mosaic of tidal flats and indigenous marsh vegetation. The reserve is bisected by the Pauatahanui-Plimmerton (Grays) road which has influenced tidal movements, drying out an inland portion.
In the eastern half of the inlet is the Pauatahanui Inlet Wildlife Refuge, set up to protect wildlife from disturbance, especially hunting. Duck Creek Scenic Reserve - on State Highway 58 where Duck Creek flows into the inlet - is a shallow wet basin mainly covered in rushes and is surrounded on three sides by roads. The Horokiwi Wildlife Reserve is an estuarine wetland to the west and south of Grays Road near Horokiwi Stream.
The inlet is home to waterfowl, both local and migratory waders, with occasionally a rare visitor such as the bar-tailed godwit, Limosa lapponica, for the birding enthusiast. It is the only large area of salt-marsh and seagrass in the Wellington region. The walnut-sized mud snail, Amphibola crenata hold a critical place in the wetland food web. As they chew on the organic material that forms their food, they stimulate the growth of bacteria that return nutrients into the water.
Among the native fish in the estuary is the banded kokopu, a beautifully-patterned native fish that can reach up to 250mm.
Surrounded by urban development, the Pauatahanui Inlet is threatened by siltation, pollution, eutrophication (enrichment with nutrients,road development and depletion of fish stocks through commercial and recreational fishing. The Department of Conservation is working with community groups to advocate for land and water management to protect the natural and historic resources of this important estuarine wetland.
Pauatahanui Inlet is an east-west running arm of Porirua Harbour, 30km north of Wellington. Public access to the Pauatahanui Wildlife Management Reserve is via the Forest and Bird reserve at Pauatahanui village from State Highway 58.
Parking is available. From State Highway 1. You can get onto the route around the estuary by turning off at the Paremata roundabout or at Grays Road in Plimmerton.
Know before you go
The reserve protects rare species and habitats.
Dogs, fires, hunting, trail bike riding and mountain bike riding are not permitted in this area.
Other places to visit
Taupo Swamp - a lowland freshwater mire with a walkway/cycleway connecting the seaside settlements of Plimmerton and Pukerua Bay along State Highway 1.