Rivers (New Zealand)

Where can I find information about rivers in New Zealand?

Entry last updated: 27/05/22


A river is a large stream of moving water that flows into an ocean, lake, or another river. New Zealand has more than 70 river systems. A river system includes one main river and all the other smaller rivers that flow into it (tributaries).

Conservation of New Zealand's natural resources (including rivers) is of high importance to New Zealand.

New Zealand rivers

Here is a short list of some of New Zealand's more well-known rivers.

Avon River : Passes through Christchurch.

Clutha River/Mata-au : Second longest river at 322km.

Rakaia River : Crossed by New Zealand's longest road bridge.

Shotover River : Used for commercial whitewater rafting and jet boating near Queenstown.

Te Awa Kairangi/Hutt River : A river with a history of flooding in the North Island.

Waikato River : Longest river in New Zealand at 425km.

Whanganui River : North Island river with a special legal status that gives it the rights of a person.

General websites

These sites have been chosen because they contain good information about the formation and types of rivers, conservation of rivers, and the significance of rivers to Māori.

Department of Conservation

The Department of Conservation (DOC for short) is the government website about preserving the natural and historical sites of New Zealand. This website gives detailed information about New Zealand rivers, along with information about their protection.

Tips: This website is supported by the New Zealand government so you can be sure that the information is accurate and properly researched. We like websites with govt. or edu. as that means that they are reliable - they are from governments or education institutions overseas as well as in New Zealand.

Te Ara: Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we look down to the bottom of the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

To find information about how New Zealand rivers are formed, different types of river, Māori and rivers, and much more:

  • go to the section The Bush,
  • then select Landscapes to find Rivers, and
  • look through the different pages.

Here are some steps to find information about specific New Zealand rivers.

  • Enter a river name in the search bar eg 'Waikato river' or 'Whanganui river.'
  • Select articles about a region's landmarks or places eg Waikato landmarks.

Tips: Search words, or keywords, are the most important words in our question. Usually it’s better to leave out small words like ‘the’, ‘a’ and ‘of’ and just choose the main ones, eg Waikato river. We can always change our keywords or add more if we need to.

Science Learning Hub

A selection of articles, activities and videos for intermediate and secondary students. Created by the University of Waikato and Curious Minds (NZ). It has great information about New Zealand rivers.

  • Search for 'rivers'.
  • This will bring up lots of videos and articles such as Human impact on rivers.
  • Look through the pages to find an article about New Zealand's  River ecosystems.
  • Search for wai ora to find the interactive Wai Māori.
  • This has information about the relationship of Māori to water.

Tips: Websites with org. in the address can have good information, but you need to check how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the company's mission and values are.

New Zealand Geographic

This is one of the EPICresources. It gives online access to the entire archive of New Zealand Geographic magazine.

Tips: To get to the EPIC resources you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.

Ministry for the Environment (MFE)

The Ministry for the Environment is responsible for providing national guidance and policy about the environment in New Zealand. Rivers are a type of freshwater, and this site has information about why it's important to keep our water clean and waterways healthy.


There are a number of books that have been written about rivers - check out your local public or school library to see what they have. Here are some that we suggest:

SCIS no: 1984743

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