Wairau River

Coordinates: 41°34′S 173°31′E / 41.567°S 173.517°E / -41.567; 173.517
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Wairau River
Kowhai Point in the Wairau Valley
Native nameWairau (Māori)
CountryNew Zealand
Physical characteristics
 • locationSpenser Mountains
 • location
Te Koko-o-Kupe / Cloudy Bay
 • coordinates
41°34′S 173°31′E / 41.567°S 173.517°E / -41.567; 173.517
Length170 kilometres (110 mi)

The Wairau River is one of the longest rivers in New Zealand's South Island. It flows for 170 kilometres (110 mi) from the Spenser Mountains (a northern range of the Southern Alps), firstly in a northwards direction and then northeast down a long, straight valley in inland Marlborough.

The river's lower reaches and surrounding fertile plain provide the basis for the Marlborough wine region. The river has its outflow into Cook Strait at Cloudy Bay, just north of Blenheim in the island's northeast. The Wairau River meets the sea at the Wairau Bar, an important archaeological site.

In pre-European and early colonial New Zealand, one of the South Island's largest Māori settlements was close to the mouth of the Wairau. The Wairau Valley was the scene of the 1843 Wairau Affray, the first violent clash between Maori residents and English settlers over land in New Zealand.


There are currently two hydroelectric power stations operating on tributaries of the river.

The Wairau Hydro Scheme proposed by TrustPower will operate on a 48-kilometre (30 mi) long canal. Up to 60 percent of the flow of the river will be diverted into the canal. A resource consent has been granted for the scheme but opponents have already appealed to the Environment Court.[1]


  1. ^ van Wel, Alex (6 August 2008). "Scheme's enemies vow fight". The Press.

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