Pukepuke Lagoon, a dune lake and wetland near Tangimoana in the Manawatu, is an important wetland habitat for birds, freshwater fish and native plants.


Visitors to Pukepuke Conservation Area need a (free) access permit. The permits are available from the DOC office in Palmerston North.

Place overview


  • Bird and wildlife watching

Find things to do and places to stay Pukepuke Lagoon Conservation Area

About this place

Nature and conservation

Pukepuke Lagoon is a dune lake resulting from the formation of sand dunes along the coast near Tangimoana which prevented inland water run-off escaping out to sea. It is a shallow lake up to 2m deep, drying out occasionally in summer droughts, but still an important wetland habitat for native and introduced birds. Originally around 160 ha in area, the lake has reduced in size to around 15 ha over the last century as a result of sand drift, local drainage, and the spread of raupo.

Nationally threatened birds and migratory birds

A number of species seldom found elsewhere in the region live at Pukepuke Lagoon, including the North Island fernbird (matata), spotless crake (puweto), marsh crake (koitareke), New Zealand shoveler (kuru whengi) and New Zealand scaup (papango).

The royal spoonbill (kotuku-ngutupapa) and variable oystercatcher (torea-pango) visit the wetland occasionally. Two nationally threatened species: the New Zealand dabchick (weweia) and the Australasian bittern (matuku-hurepo) are also found here.

Rare plants

Three wetland herbs which are rare elsewhere in the region have been found at Pukepuke. These are Hydrocotyle pterocarpaZannichellia palustris and dwarf musk.

Native fish

Pukepuke is home to a large population of short-finned eel. Long-finned eel and inanga are also present.

Research station

The New Zealand Wildlife Service researched waterfowl at Pukepuke until the late 1960s and a field officer lived on site until 1987. The area is now managed by DOC.  

Rangitikei River mouth coastal reserves

Tawhirihoe Scientific Reserve and Moana Roa Conservation Area border each side of the Rangitikei River mouth. Tawhirihoe to the south and Moana Roa to the north contain some of the best examples of parabolic dune systems left in the country. 

History and culture

Ngati Apa occupied a fortified pa at Pukepuke until about 1840 and after that visited the area seasonally to gather food. Today, they have access rights and traditional fishing rights for long-finned and short-finned eels. Members of Ngati Apa wishing to access tuna here should contact the Ngati Apa Rūnanga on +64 6 327 5594 or email  

Getting there

The lagoon is accessible from the end of Pukepuke Road, off State Highway 1, between Himatangi and Sanson. 

From SH1 turn down Pukepuke Road north of Oroua Downs, and drive to the end of the road. Access is via a dirt track, which can be very muddy and slippery after rain. The wetland is signposted. Drive through to the house where there is ample parking. Long vehicles (particularly buses) will have trouble negotiating a wooden bridge which requires a sharp left hand turn. 

Know before you go

A 4WD vehicle is required to access the area after rain, as the track can be very muddy and slippery. 

Fires are not permitted at Pukepuke Lagoon without a permit. BBQ fires are allowed provided they are gas and not open fires.

Power boating and fishing are not allowed.

Children should be supervised at all times as drains, deep mud and the open water are particularly hazardous.

Pukepuke Lagoon House

Sleeps up to 10 people and is bookable directly with Ngati Apa Rununga.In 2011 ownership of Pukepuke Lodge transferred to Ngati Apa as part of their Treaty settlement. To book contact Ngati Apa Runanga, Ph: +64 6 327 5594.

Access permits and keys for the bird hide

Anyone visiting the wetland requires a (free) permit from the local DOC office. Keys for the bird hide are also available from the local DOC office.


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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