Wild Rivers: The Clarence

Cascading over rocky buttresses and wending through incised gorges, the headwaters of the Clarence River/Waiau-toa weave sea-ward through the Kaikoura ranges, carrying with it the odd rafter, as well as several threatened fish & birds.   


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Where’s it found?


Waiau-Toa, the Clarence, weaves its sinewy way through the tussock and scree landscapes of the Molesworth Recreation Reserve and Kaikoura ranges. Tapuae o Uenuku, the largest mountain outside the Southern Alps, presides over the river.


 Why is it special?

As well as being a popular spot for rafters, the Clarence holds a botanical bounty on its river banks – over 550 recorded native plant species have been recorded here. Bursting from small crevices in the steep rocks is the showy Marlborough rock daisy (Pachystegia “B”). Several species of native broom (Carmichaelia spp.), and the New Zealand lilac (Heliohebe hulkeana) cling impossibly to bluffs. As well as harbouring several threatened plant species, it is also home to our endangered black fronted tern, banded dotterel & black-billed gull. It is one of the few South island east coast rivers that is undeveloped. 

What’s planned for this river?

In recent years several groups/companies, and even government departments, have suggested that water could be piped through the Hanmer Range from the Clarence, and that dams could be constructed in the steep gorges of the lower Clarence to provide both electricity and irrigation. We believe it should be protected by a Water Conservation Order.