Hutt River (New Zealand)

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Hutt River
The Hutt River looking downstream.
Origin Tararua Ranges
Mouth Wellington Harbour
Basin countries New Zealand
Length 56 km (35 mi)
Mouth elevation 0 m (0 ft)
Basin area 655 km2 (253 sq mi)

The Hutt River (Māori:Te Awakairangi, Te Wai o Orutu or Heretaunga)[1] flows through the southern North Island of New Zealand. It flows south-west from the southern Tararua Ranges for 56 km, forming a number of fertile floodplains, including Kaitoke, central Upper Hutt and Lower Hutt.

The headwaters in the Kaitoke Regional Park are closed to preserve the quality of the drinking water drawn off at Kaitoke to supply the greater Wellington area. Below Kaitoke is the Kaitoke gorge, a popular destination for Rafting. Below the gorge is Te Marua, where the Mangaroa River joins the Hutt from the east. Further down, at Birchville, the Akatarawa River joins the Hutt from the west. Here it flows in a deep channel between the surrounding hills and is turned to flow across the Wellington Fault to Maoribank. The movement of the fault can be seen from the displacement of the river terraces in Harcourt Park.[2] At the top of the Upper Hutt floodplain, the river makes a sharp turn against the bedrock at the foot of the cliff at Maoribank to flow down the valley. The Upper Hutt floodplain contains the greater portion of Upper Hutt city. The Whakatiki River joins the Hutt from the west and it is about this point the river starts to flow along the virtually straight Wellington geologic fault, which lies on the western side of the river valley. At the lower end of the Upper Hutt floodplain is Taita Gorge, which separates Upper Hutt from Lower Hutt, this gorge is significantly shorter and less constricting than Kaitoke gorge. The river's outflow, at Petone, is into Wellington harbour. The geological fault which the river previously followed continues as a steep bluff at the edge of the Wellington Harbour.

A view across Wellington Harbour looking towards the mouth of the Hutt River

For most of its length, the Hutt is a shallow and sometimes braided river in a wide rocky bed (see picture), but in the Kaitoke gorge the river flows directly over bedrock and approaching the mouth at Petone the river is narrower and the banks steeper. The larger populated areas in Upper Hutt and Lower Hutt are protected from flooding by stopbanks and introduced willow trees, as is common in New Zealand. The regular flooding of Lower Hutt resulted in high fertility land and prior to the building of state housing by the Labour Government starting in 1937, there were many market gardens in Lower Hutt.

The Hutt has moved significantly since European settlement, due to a major earthquake in 1855 which raised the riverbed.

State highway two follows the course of the river for most of its length, with the exception of the Kaitoke gorge and the head waters, before crossing the Rimutaka Ranges into the Wairarapa.

The river was named after Sir William Hutt, chairman of the New Zealand Company. One of the Maori names for the river was Heretaunga, which is also the name of an Upper Hutt suburb and secondary school. The river has a good stock of brown trout, and can be walked or cycled from Upper Hutt to Petone along tracks on either side, though the eastern bank is more accessible.

The Lower Hutt edition of the worldwide weekly 5km running series, parkrun, runs along the last 2 1/2km section of the Hutt River from just north of the Ewen Bridge down to the Waione Bridge and back.


Heading downstream:

  • Akatarawa Road bridge, a two-lane road bridge
  • A footbridge between California Park in Totara Park and Harcourt Park in Birchville.
  • Totara Park Bridge (Totara Park Road), a two-lane road bridge opened c. 1970, providing access to the suburb of Totara Park.
  • Moonshine Bridge (River Road/SH 2), a curved two-lane road bridge that was opened in 1987 as part of the River Road bypass of Upper Hutt. It replaced a road bridge slightly upstream of the current bridge.
  • Silverstream Road Bridge (Fergusson Drive): a two-lane road bridge. It also carries a bulk water supply pipe, under-slung on the north side, connecting Te Marua water treatment plant with Porirua and Wellington City.
  • Silverstream Rail Bridge (Wairarapa Line): a double-track rail bridge that was opened in 1954 to replace a single-track rail bridge around 500 metres further downstream.
  • Pomare Rail Bridge (Wairarapa Line): a double-track rail bridge that was opened in 1954 as part of the Hutt Valley railway deviation.
  • Kennedy-Good Bridge (Fairway Drive): a two-lane road bridge that was opened in 1979 and was the first bridge at this site. The bridge is named after the Mayor of Lower Hutt at the time.
  • Melling Bridge (Melling Link Road): a three-lane bridge (one eastbound, two westbound) that was opened 1957. This is the second bridge at this site, the first being a one-lane suspension bridge opened in 1909, approximately 200 metres upstream.
  • Ewen Bridge: a four-lane road bridge which is the seventh bridge at this site and was opened in 1996. The preceding bridges were opened in 1844, 1847, 1856, 1872, 1904 and 1929.
  • The 'Rail Bridge' (Wairarapa Line) a two-track rail bridge with pedestrian walkway. Opened 1927.
  • Estuary Bridge (Waione Street): a two-lane road bridge that also carries a bulk water supply pipe connecting Waterloo and Wainuiomata water treatment plants with Wellington City. Opened 1954.


  1. ^ Te Ara:The Encyclopedia of New Zealand - Hutt Valley - south
  2. ^ Noticeboard in Harcourt Park, Upper Hutt.

Coordinates: 41°14′S 174°54′E / 41.233°S 174.900°E / -41.233; 174.900