Hapuka Estuary Loop Walk
Image: Shellie Evans | ©


The West Coast features a number of wetlands, including Karamea/Otumahana Estuary, Totara Lagoon, Lake Ianthe, Okarito Lagoon, Hapuka Estuary, Shearer Swamp and more.

The West Coast is endowed with a wide variety of large and valuable wetlands, including lakes, swamps, fens, bogs, marshes, pakihis, lagoons and estuaries, most of which are fully protected.

The only kōtuku/white heron breeding colony in New Zealand is located on the Waitangiroto River close to Okarito Lagoon. The region is one of the last stronghold for the Australasian bittern. Large extent of habitat suitable for crakes is also still present although these shy birds are rarely seen. Whitebait breeding is still prolific in various coastal swamps, creeks and lagoons, a good example being the Tawharekiri wetland near Haast.


Gradual weed invasion is occurring into most types of wetland, necessitating costly control measures. It is also important to maintain high quality water runoff into wetlands from surrounding land as land-use intensifies, with dairying in particular.

Dairying expansion contributes to further drainage and sometimes clearance of near natural wetlands.

Coal mining is also having an impact on wetlands of the Stockton Plateau.

South Westland wetlands have suffered loss and degradation overall.

The Whataroa Ecological Region wetland complex is being considered for nomination as a Ramsar wetland area in recognition of its international importance. The Paparoa karst wetland is also being investigated for Ramsar status.

Places to visit

  • Karamea/Otumahana Estuary (birdwatching)
  • Orowaiti Estuary
  • Tiropahi pakihi walk
  • Lake Brunner (kayaking opportunities)
  • Blaketown Lagoon (Kowhai walk in Greymouth)
  • Lake Mahinapua (kayaking)
  • Lake Kaniere (kahikatea walk)
  • Totara Lagoon (kayaking)
  • Shearer Swamp (large peat bog visible from coastal road)
  • Lake Ianthe (boat ecotrip), harihari pakihi/coastal walk
  • Whataroa wetland boardwalk
  • Okarito Lagoon (kayaking, bird watching)
  • Lake Mapourika (boat ecotrip)
  • Lake Paringa (kayaking)
  • Ship Creek walks
  • Hapuka Estuary walk
  • Lake Matheson
  • Harihari

Community projects

  • Birchfield Swamp restoration near Westport
  • Wadeson Island restoration at Hokitika
  • La Fontaine restoration at Harihari
  • Whataroa wetland walk at Whataroa
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