The Insider's Guide to New Zealand

Find me a river


It's impossible to overstate the connection between the Manawatū River and the region that bears its name. Alarmed at the water's degradatio­n, the Manawatū River Leaders' Forum was formed in August 2010 to restore the river as “a source of regional pride and mana”. Notable efforts have improved water quality and the reconnecti­on of whenua to the awa (river).

One of the most visible initiative­s is the Tū Te Manawa project, which is erecting 8 whare mātauranga (educationa­l kiosks) to explain the area's cultural and historical importance.

Besides creating a beautiful spot to gather and picnic, the project also aims to promote citizen science and increase the appreciati­on of coming generation­s for the mighty Manawatū. (Find more under the activities tab at manawaturi­

The Manawatū Estuary is considered one of the most important wetlands in the world, home to 23 threatened species: 13 bird, six fish, and four plant.

The estuary has Ramsar status (named for the Iranian town where the Convention on Wetlands was signed in 1971), which gives it protection as a wetland of internatio­nal significan­ce.

More than 200ha in size, the estuary is a refuge for nearly 100 species of birds — making it one of the country's most diverse. It's also vitally important to migratory native fish, who must go to sea to breed. Any time of year is good for birdwatchi­ng. In summer look for godwits, knots, terns, golden plovers, and in winter hunker down to spot royal spoonbills, wrybills and banded dotterels, to name but a few.

Park at the southern point of Holben Parade and walk towards the estuary and the small birdwatchi­ng shelter. The walkways extend either left or right: the right turn goes up-river towards the Manawatū Marine Boating Club, while turning left extends down towards the river mouth and beach. Walk right along the coast, coming up at the Surf Club, and loop back to Holben Parade. This loop goes past the Ocean Beach Eatery, which would make a convenient coffee stop. Allow about an hour.

Say hello, and goodbye: The Manawatū Estuary Trust holds an annual welcome and farewell to the migrating birds. These public events are held close to the equinox each March and October. See the events page at

Kei te ora te wai, kei te ora te whenua, kei te ora te tangata.

If the water is healthy, the land and the people are nourished.

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