Waipa River

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Waipa River
19-9-12 Ngaruawahia Point bandstand, Waipa and Waikato from bridge.JPG
from Waingaro Rd bridge looking north down Waipa River to Ngaruawahia Point bandstand, the Waikato (coming from right) and the Hakarimata Range in the background (19-9-2012)
Origin Rangitoto Range
Mouth Waikato River
Basin countries New Zealand
Length 115 km (71 mi)
Source elevation 703 m (2,306 ft)
Mouth elevation 20 m (66 ft)
Avg. discharge 83.9 m3/s (2,960 cu ft/s)
Basin area 3,050 km2 (1,180 sq mi)
The Waipa River - The Waikato's largest tributary

The Waipa River is in the Waikato region of the North Island of New Zealand. The headwaters are in the Rangitoto Range east of Te Kuiti. It flows north for 115 kilometres, passing through Otorohanga and Pirongia, before flowing into the Waikato River at Ngaruawahia. It is the Waikato's largest tributary.

Over 50 km was navigable by waka and Pirongia (Alexandra) was busy as the head of steamboat navigation until the railway was built to Te Awamutu in 1880.[1] However, a 1915 guidebook still said, "Small steamers ply up and down the river from Huntly".[2] An 1881 article said a journey upriver would normally take 36 hours, but more in dry weather, when shoals at Whatwhata and Te Rore were hard to cross.[3]

In the headwaters upstream of Otorohanga the river can be very clear during low flow conditions. This section of the river flows through rough farmland and patches of native bush. In this clearer part of the river there can be very good fly fishing for trout, but you'll need to ask the land owners permission to access the river.

The Waipa is prone to flooding in its lower reaches as flood flows can be over 100 times (20 to 560 cu m per sec) those of dry flows and the river can rise up to 11 metres.[4]


Waikato Regional Council measures water quality monthly at 5 sites from Mangaokewa to Whatawhata.[5] The measurements show poor quality along most of the river, with excess nitrogen, silt and phosphorus, though E. coli levels have improved with improved sewage treatment, though generally not enough for safe swimming.[6] Nitrogen levels increased at all 5 sites between 1993 and 2012 due to intensified land use.[7]

Ministry for the Environment figures[8] averaged between 1998 and 2007 showed the Waipa at Otorohanga had 280 E.coli per 100ml (53rd worst out of 154), 360 faecal coliforms per 100ml (83rd of 252), 0.55mg/litre nitrogen (161th of 342) and 0.03mg/litre phosphorus (187th of 361).

At Pirongia the figures were 390 E.coli per 100ml (35th worst out of 154), 425 faecal coliforms per 100ml (64th of 252), 0.49mg/litre nitrogen (174th of 342) and 0.06mg/litre phosphorus (80th of 361).

At Whatawhata the figures were 0.92mg/litre nitrogen (94th of 342) and 0.06mg/litre phosphorus (69th of 361).

In the Mangaokewa stream 0.02mg/litre phosphorus (237th of 361).


Listed in order from the confluence with the Waikato and moving south they are:-

looking south from Whatawhata bridge.
  • 1898 Ngaruawahia bridge opened. Collapsed under a mob of cattle 20 December 1916 (see 1917 photo) and rebuilt in 1918.[9]
  • 1914-1958 Waipa Railway and Coal Co. 70 ft (21 m) long[10] bridge.
  • 1881 (20 April) 520 ft (160 m) long Whatawhata bridge originally. The wooden structure 15 ft (4.6 m) above high water mark[11] consisted of two spans of 80 ft (24 m), 7 of 40 and 4 of 20 ft (6.1 m), and cost £3700. Repairs were done in 1909, but was in poor repair again by 1917. For £11,250 a new truss bridge was built over the top of it in 1924.[12] The current concrete bridge, which is south of the original site, was shown on the 1974 edition of the 1 inch Lands & Survey map, but not on the 1965 3rd edition.
Te Rore bridge from south.
  • 1881 (12 August) 400 ft (120 m) long Te Rore bridge. Replaced 1957.[13]
  • 1865 (about) Alexandra Bridge, Baffin St, Pirongia, originally built by the army.[14]
  • 1882 Alexandra Bridge, McClure St, Whatawhatahoe, Pirongia."Mr. Wright has superintended the construction of the Alexandra Bridge, over the Waipa River, to give access to Tāwhiao's new settlement, Whatawhatahoe (see map), and which will at the same time eventually be on the main line leading into the King country. The bridge will be open now in a fortnights' time, it consists of 6- 24 ft (7.3 m) spans, and 3- 40 ft (12 m) trusses, a total length of 264 ft (80 m), the height being 42 ft (13 m) above ordinary river level. The approaches and about a mile of road, and a large culvert have been made by Mr. Wright, with Maori labor. The whole will have been completed at a cost of about £1,800."[15] There was a plan to replace it in 1939.[16]
  • 1915 Te Kawa Rd bridge 340 ft (100 m) long, 40 ft (12 m) high.[17]
  • Kawhia Rd, Otorohanga
  • Maniapoto St, Otorohanga photo about 1910
  • 1887 North Island Main Trunk railway bridge.
  • 1928 Toa Bridge, Otewa Rd.[18]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Raglan County Hills and Sea: A Centennial History 1876-1976 - C. W. Vennell, Susan Williams - Google Books. Books.google.co.nz. Retrieved 2012-12-18. 
  2. ^ The Raglan and Kawhia Districts: E E Bradbury 1915 page 49
  3. ^ Waikato Times, Volume XVI, Issue 1375, 26 April 1881, Page 3
  4. ^ http://www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/riverlevelsandrainfall/cgi-bin/hydwebserver.cgi/points/details?point=35&catchment=17, http://www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/riverlevelsandrainfall/cgi-bin/hydwebserver.cgi/points/details?point=939&catchment=17, http://www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/riverlevelsandrainfall/cgi-bin/hydwebserver.cgi/points/details?point=28&catchment=17 and http://www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/Services/Publications/Technical-Reports/Waikato-and-Waipa-rivers-flood-event-6-16-July-2002/
  5. ^ map of pollution monitoring sites.
  6. ^ http://www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/Environment/Natural-resources/Water/Rivers/Waipa-River/Trends-in-Waipa-River-water-quality/
  7. ^ Trends in Waipa River water quality
  8. ^ http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/water/water-quality-trends-1989-2007/index.html
  9. ^ PACK HORSE TO JET the story of Waingaro from 1868 by Geoffrey Seavill page 30 and page 163 Raglan County Hills and Sea 1876-1976
  10. ^ New Zealand Herald, Volume XLIX, Issue 14940, 13 March 1912, Page 8
  11. ^ Waikato Times 2 Oct 1880
  12. ^ Raglan County Hills and Sea: A Centennial History 1876-1976 - C. W. Vennell, Susan Williams - Google Books. Books.google.co.nz. Retrieved 2012-12-18. 
  13. ^ http://www.teawamutuinfo.com/acatalog/Waipa_Heritage_Trail.html
  14. ^ Waikato Times 21 September 1880, Page 2
  15. ^ 1882 Surveys of New Zealand report
  16. ^ New Zealand Herald 21 January 1939, Page 18
  17. ^ New Zealand Herald, 3 February 1915, Page 9
  18. ^ http://legislation.knowledge-basket.co.nz/gpacts/public/text/1928/se/048se11.html

Coordinates: 37°41′S 175°09′E / 37.683°S 175.150°E / -37.683; 175.150