In the Bay of Plenty, less than 1% remains of the 40,000 ha of shallow wetlands which existed in the Kaituna, Waihi and Rangitaiki plains. In 1890 the Rangitaiki Plains were a wilderness of flax, raupo, manuka, waiwai and swamp vegetation.
In an effort to provide more land for settlers, river diversions, stop banking and drainage were undertaken on a major scale over successive years. Only fragments of the original wetland landscape now remain.
The Rotorua Lakes are a distinctive landscape feature of the Rotorua area along with geothermal activity and in some places, such as at Sulphur Point, Lake Rotorua, there are areas of warm, sulphurous water.
There is an abundance of waterfowl and wetland birds and many areas are designated as wildlife refuges specifically for their protection eg, Sulphur Point, Hamurana and Rotomahana.
Athenree Wildlife Refuge Reserve
Athenree Wildlife Refuge Reserve is located on Steele Road between Athenree and Waihi Beach, adjacent to the Waiau River.
This restoration project boasts a short walking track around fresh and saltwater ponds through regenerating coastal scrub and wetland. Threatened animals such as matuku hūrepo/Australasian bittern and kataitai/banded rail are known to nest here. The land was gifted to New Zealand by local farmer the late Maurice 'Snow' Browne.
For protection of the wildlife and habitat, no dogs or bicycles are permitted at the Athenree Wildlife Refuge Reserve.
Lower Kaituna Wildlife Management Reserve
The Lower Kaituna Wildlife Management Reserve is located northeast of Te Puke off Kaituna Road. Short walks are available and a viewing hide allows excellent bird watching. Information panels describing the plants, animals, history and culture of the Kaituna Wetland are featured on the short walks.
The Reserve features a mature stand of Kahikatea alongside newly created wetlands and restoration plantings. For protection of the wildlife and habitat, no dogs or bicycles are permitted at the Lower Kaituna Wildlife Management Reserve.
Waterfowl hunting normally occurs here during May and June and other recreational users are advised not to use the reserve at this time.
Wetland restoration guide - Bay of Plenty regional council