Ōrāri Temuka Ōpihi Pareora zone biodiversity

The Ōrāri Temuka Ōpihi Pareora zone is distinctive due to its intricate system of braided river networks and gorges, which provide varied ecosystems for a number of indigenous flora and fauna. 




The zone is home to four major rivers - the Pareora, Ōpihi, Ōrāri and Rangitata.

The river gorges provide spectacular scenery and relatively undisturbed corridors of habitat for many native species. A series of coastal lagoons provide refuge for multitudes of native and migrant bird species. Small patches of duneland and coastal vegetation are becoming more common as a result of community restoration efforts.

Flora and Fauna

This zone is home to many unique indigenous flora and fauna. Distinctive tree fuchsia forests occur in relatively undisturbed valleys along the foothills. Peel Forest is one of the best examples of beech, podocarp and broadleaved forest remaining in Canterbury.

Washdyke lagoon has long been recognised as highly significant habitat for many vulnerable species including the critically endangered white heron and black stilt. The long-tailed bat roosts in trees and depressions in limestone outcrops, such as those along the Opihi River. Canterbury mudfish thrive in freshwater wetland and stream networks isolated from predators. The southern limit for katipo occurs in this zone, a healthy population of the indigenous venomous spider is found at the Ōrāri river mouth.

The Canterbury knobbled weevil (Hadramphus tuberculatus) was believed extinct since the 1920s and was rediscovered in 2004 at the Burkes Pass Conservation Reserve. This is the only population of this species existing. Environment Canterbury and the Department of Conservation are currently working hard to maintain numbers. The endemic shrub Hebe pareora grows in rock crevices along streams in the hunter hills and the gorges of the Pareora, Ōrāri and possibly Opihi rivers.


The major threats to OOP zone terrestrial indigenous ecosystems are from exotic species invasions, mammalian grazing and the threats associated with small, isolated patch distribution (reduced humidity, reduced dispersal). OOP zone freshwater indigenous ecosystems are also sensitive to exotic species invasions such as oxygen weeds and introduced coarse fish. Other threats include increased sediment and nutrient inputs and decreased shading.

Places to go

Otipua Wetland

The wetland began as community project to re-create a wetland which will benefit wildlife, the environment and people for the future. It provides the opportunity to enjoy wilderness, wetlands and a huge diversity of flora and fauna at the edge of Timaru city.

Native pukeko foraging in wetlands river

Things to do

A high quality walking track runs along the beach and through/around the wetland and back down to the coast. It takes approximately 1 hour return.

The area is also good for bird watching. You may see: royal spoonbills, pied stilts, swans, chestnut breasted shelduck, scaup, mallard duck, paradise duck, kotuku, white-faced heron, pukeko, cormorant, black billed gulls, marsh crake.


The Otipua ecosystem comprises of many distinctive ecosystems, which range from saline lagoon areas to swamp forest. In this area you will find open mud-flats providing good habitats for wading birds, shrubby vegetation containing nectar eating birds such as bellbird and silvereye, and raupo swampland, which provides habitat for bittern and marsh crake.


Arowhenua Runaka are the original inhabitants of this area, which provided an important source of harakeke, pingao, and raupo for weaving and mokihi and mahinga kai for takata whenua.

The Otipua Wetland Charitable Trust was formed in 1997. The land was purchased by the trust and is being planted by volunteers including the trust, local schools, Lions Foundation and other groups. The restoration project has been supported by the Department of Conservation, Fish and Game, Timaru District Council and funding from Environment Canterbury and the Ōrāri Temuka Ōpihi Pareora Canterbury Water Management Strategy Zone Committee.

Getting there

Drive to Patiti Point in Timaru and start at the bridge over Saltwater Creek on King Street/Main South Road. Alternatively, park in Rothwell Street by the Timaru rowing club and start from there. Follow the track along the left side of Salt Water Creek to the wooden bridge.