Lake Waiwiri and its surrounds make up 135 hectares of scenic reserve

Image: Kristina D.C. Hoeppner | Creative Commons


Within Papaitonga Scenic Reserve is Lake Waiwiri, a dune lake that provides an important sanctuary for recovering wetlands birds. The reserve gets its name (Papaitonga) from one of the lake islands.

Place overview


  • Information panels
  • Picnic tables


  • Bird and wildlife watching
  • Picnicking
  • Walking and tramping

Find things to do and places to stay Papaitonga Scenic Reserve

About this place

Nature and conservation

Papaitonga Scenic Reserve is an important refuge for birds that depend on wetlands or lowland forests for their survival. It is home to waterfowl and wading birds, as well as forest species on the lake's margins.

Lake Waiwiri and its surrounds make up 135 ha of scenic reserve. Wetland and lush coastal forest surround the lake.

Within the reserve is the only intact sequence from wetland to mature dry terrace forest in Wellington and Horowhenua.

The wetland forest associations of kahikatea/pukatea, tawa and pukatea-tawa-swamp maire are now rare.

The manuka growing on the forested side is habitat for the rare leafless mistletoe Korthalsella salicornioides.

History and culture

Lake Waiwiri formed in a depression behind sand dunes deposited 35,000 years ago, where water from several sources accumulated. Within the lake are two islands. Papaitonga is the larger of the two islands. Karaka was brought to the island and it continues to grow in thick groves.

The smaller of the two islands, Papawhārangi was constructed by the Muaūpoko people in the late 18th to early 19th century. During this period Muaūpoko also constructed islands on Lake Waipunahau (Horowhenua), which have become part of the shoreline.

Papawhārangi was formed by forcing poles into the lake bottom to define the island's outline, then filling them with pūrei and kākahi shells. Pūrei is a tussock-forming sedge that was taken from the edge of the lake with earth still attached to its roots, then tossed into the water inside the poles. Cast upon the pūrei were kākahi shells, onto which canoeloads of soil were thrown.

Getting there

The entrance to the reserve is at the end of Buller Road, off State Highway 1 approximately 5 km southwest of Levin.

Know before you go

Papaitonga Scenic Reserve contains rare plants and wildlife, and fragile habitats.

Dogs, fires and other activities that may cause damage, such as hunting, mountain biking and trail bike riding, are not permitted.

Visitors should stay on formed tracks and defined lookout areas at all times. Access to the islands on the lake is not permitted.

Remove your rubbish. Recycle paper, glass, cans and plastic.

Pest control operation

DOC is carrying out possum and rat control in Papaitonga Scenic Reserve. Find out more about the operation.


Te Papaioea / Palmerston North Office
Phone:   +64 6 350 9700
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Address:   28 North Street
Palmerston North 4410
Postal Address:   Private Bag 11010
Manawatu Mail Centre
Palmerston North 4442
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