A new web-based resource to help people explore, monitor and restore our country’s estuaries is now available.

Date:  01 February 2016

The resource has three interactive maps, which show places of interest as well as sites where management agencies and local estuary care groups are active.

Helen Kettles from DOC's Marine Ecosystems Team has championed and lead the development of this resource in response to a growing interest in estuaries restoration.

“This is an online resource where people working in their local area can connect and share their expertise with others doing similar work elsewhere. It also shows up estuaries where not much conservation activity is going on, or recorded, and provides a nationwide view.”

Saltwater snorkel at Whangataeu Mangrove Estuary. Image: Kirsty-Prior.Identifying saltmarsh plants of the Waikouaiti River Estuary. Image: Patti Vanderberg.Identifying saltmarsh plants at Waikouaiti River Estuary
Saltwater snorkel at Whangateau Mangrove Estuary

Local councils and care groups should check they have been marked on the map, noting their monitoring and restoration activity, such as cockle counts and replanting to build habitats for native fish.

“Estuaries can easily be overlooked, but they are places that support an incredible diversity of plant, fish and bird life. New Zealand has more than 300 estuaries that range from internationally recognised places like the Manawatu to tiny stream outlets in isolated places that go almost unnoticed.”

Helen says estuaries are fundamental to many of our coastal fisheries as they provide important habitat for spawning and allow juveniles to grow. For example research has shown that the Kaipara Harbour estuary is where 90% of the North Island west coast snapper start their life. Estuary ecosystems also maintain water quality in the sea by filtering out sediment and nutrients.

She says the resource is also about acknowledging and promoting the significance and matauranga Maori (Maori knowledge) of estuaries.

“Estuaries are national taonga (treasures), but many are threatened by changing landuse in their rivers and catchments. With a little bit of knowledge and some strategic action, you can make a big difference to the health of an estuary.”

The web pages are supported by resources for groups, schools and families. One of the maps illustrates opportunities to explore estuaries on foot, by bike and in kayaks. A social media page showcases what’s happening around the country and promotes the use of the #OurEstuaries hashtag.

“There are lots of possibilities for recreation that people may not have come across before. Many of us live quite close to estuaries but don’t always recognise them for the fascinating places that they are. If you go exploring and keep your eyes open you may be surprised by what you find!”

Explore the web resource on or email to contribute to this living resource.

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