Nature and conservation
The estuary is an enclosed, drowned river valley about 13 km long and between 2-3 km wide. As the tide enters the inlet, it divides into northeast and southwest channels before spilling out onto expansive intertidal sandflats, which dominate the estuary.
Seagrass beds, salt marshes, tidal wetlands, dunes, cliffs, islands, rock platforms and underwater reefs are all found within the marine reserve and are important habitat to a variety of species.
About 30 species of marine fish use the inlet at some stage of their life cycle, and it is an important breeding and nursery area for snapper, flatfish, and kahawai. Many fish enter the estuary to take advantage of the rich food supply found in the seagrass beds and sandflats.
The area has always been important to Maori, both as a food basket and as a place to live. Sacred sites and evidence of previous occupation remain today. The manawhenua iwi are Ngati Rarua, Ngati Tama and Te Atiawa.
In colonial times, the coastal forest around the inlet was clear felled and selectively logged, the flax milled and the land mined for coal and gold. Despite these intrusions, there is little permanent ecological damage and most catchments are covered with regenerating forest.
History and culture
The Westhaven Inlet area has always been important to Maori, both as a food basket and as a place to live. Sacred sites and evidence of previous occupation remain today.
Ki a koutou katoa
The manawhenua iwi are Ngati Rarua, Ngati Tama and Te Atiawa.
To get to Westhaven, follow the road from Collingwood to Farewell Spit, taking the left-hand fork just north of Pakawau.
The wildlife management reserve is about six kilometres on, just beyond the turn off to Kaihoka Lakes. Continue on along Dry Road which leads around the inlet to Mangarakau, following the estuary shoreline most of the way.
Know before you go
- The marine reserve totally protects all plant and animal life within its boundaries, benefiting not only fish and shellfish, but birdlife as well. Fishing and shooting are not permitted in the marine reserve.
- The wildlife management reserve allows for fishing and game bird hunting.
- Trail bikes or vehicles are not allowed off-road in either reserve, except at boat launching areas.
- Vehicle launching of boats is permitted 200 metres past the Kaihoka Road turnoff on Dry Road, and at Mangarakau Wharf.