Western shore looking South
|Location||South Wairarapa District, Wellington Region, North Island|
|Basin countries||New Zealand|
|Surface area||78 km2 (30 sq mi)|
|Average depth||2.5 m (8 ft 2 in)|
Lake Wairarapa is a lake at the southern end of the North Island of New Zealand, 50 kilometers east of Wellington. The lake covers an area of 78 km2 (30 sq mi), and is the third largest in the North Island, fractionally smaller than Lake Rotorua. The nearest town to the lake is Featherston, which is located five kilometres from its northern shore.
The lake's catchment area is large, and includes the eastern slopes of the Rimutaka and Tararua Ranges. The lake takes water from several rivers and was originally the main outflow for the Ruamahanga. This in turn drained slowly into Palliser Bay and Cook Strait ten kilometres south near the settlement of Lake Ferry, via what is now Lake Onoke. The river, however, was diverted in the 1960s to assist flow, thereby reducing flooding for farmers. The lake today therefore covers an area significantly smaller than its historical size of around 210 km²
The area around the lake is low-lying and swampy, and recent efforts have been made to preserve its important wetland features and restore wildlife habitat that has been degraded through human use. Agriculture and river development, flood control, and waterway diversions have resulted in the drainage of large areas of the wetlands, reducing their ecological values. The lake forms part of the Wairarapa Moana Wetlands Park.
The lake has long been used by Māori as a source of readily available food, and many species of waterfowl and fish uncommon elsewhere in New Zealand can be found in or around the lake.
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