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Photo Credit: John Highton

The Upper Taieri Wetland Complex

The Upper Taieri Wetlands Complex consists of three sub-areas, the Styx (Paerau) Basin Wetlands, the Maniototo Basin Wetlands and Taieri Lake Wetlands.

All 3 wetlands are on the floodplain of the Taieri River.  ORC is currently mapping this area. Find out more about the mapping here.


The areas are predominantly in private ownership and much of this area comprises pasture land used for grazing. However, most of these pasture areas retain Significant Wetland values, depending on the season.

The Styx Basin wetlands consist of a scroll-plain land form of meanders, oxbows, old braids, backwaters and cut-offs, stretching from near Paerau to Canadian Hut. The area includes the 136 ha Serpentine Wildlife Management Reserve.

The Maniototo Basin Wetlands, downstream of the Styx Wetlands, are of similar land form. These include the 37.5 ha Eden Creek Wildlife Management Reserve and the 44 ha Halls Road Wildlife Management Reserve.

The Taieri Lake Wetlands lie adjacent to the Taieri River, downstream of the Maniototo Wetlands. They encompass part of the 187 ha Taieri Lake Recreation Reserve. (1)

(From the Otago Regional Council Website)

Recorded Values: Descriptions

A1:  Habitat for nationally or internationally rare or threatened species or communities. Habitat for several threatened species, including the nationally threatened Australasian Bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus) and the Banded Dotterel (Charadrius bicinctus bicinctus) (Grove 1994, p52 86), and the threatened plant tufted hair-grass (Deschampsia caespitosa). (1), (2)

A2:  Critical habitat for the life cycles of indigenous fauna which are dependent on wetlands. The area provides critical habitat for the life cycles of many indigenous bird species. 1

A3:  High diversity of wetland habitat types. Very high diversity of habitat types, reflected in the presence of 52 bird species, 27 of which are dependent on the wetland to meet their specialised needs. Many of the species breed in the wetland (see Grove 1994, p51-53, for details 86). 1

A4: High degree of wetland naturalness. 2

A5: Scarce in Otago in terms of its ecological or physical character. Scarce wetland type. The only scroll-plain in New Zealand, with a consequently unique combination of wetland habitats.
Although the vegetation and form of the Upper Taieri Wetlands has been extensively modified by drainage, channelisation, the introduction of exotic species, grazing and other farming activities, they are the best remaining example of this type of wetland in the Otago Region. They also represent the only significant inland upland habitat of this type left in New Zealand. 1 Less than 15% of swamps remain in Otago. 2
A6: Highly valued by Kai Tahu for cultural and spiritual beliefs, values and uses, including mahika kai and waahi taoka. Valued by Kai Tahu as traditional mahika kai area. 1
A7: High diversity of indigenous wetland flora and fauna. A very high species diversity, of both flora and fauna. 1

A8: Regionally significant wetland habitat for waterfowl. Regionally important habitat for waterfowl. Breeding area for a large number of waterfowl species. 1

A9: Significant hydrological values including maintianing water quality or low flows, or reducing flood flows. Performs an important hydrological function in terms of ameliorating downstream flood peaks and low flows. 1


Photo Credit: John Highton


Type/Class: Swamp. (2)
Size: 2,727 ha.
Styx Basin Wetland: 560–600 m above sea level.
Maniototo Basin Wetlands: 360–380 m above sea level.
Taieri Lake Wetlands: 340–360 m above sea level.

Approximate location:
Upper Taieri River.
Styx Basin Wetland:
NZTM (centre point): E1354000 N4962000.
Maniototo Basin Wetlands:
NZTM (centre point): E1366000 N4989100.
Taieri Lake Wetlands:
NZTM (centre point): E1379700 N4993300.
Regional Plan: Water for Otago.
Schedule 9 Regionally Significant Wetland (161), Maps F19 to F25.
Territorial Authority:
Central Otago District Council.

Other Information:

  • Presence of lamprey/kanakana (Geotria australis), Lepidium sisymbrioidesand tufted hair-grass (Deschampsia cespitosa). 2

  • Listed as an Area of Significant Indigenous Vegetation, Habitats of Indigenous Fauna and Wetlands in the Central Otago District Plan. 55

  • This area has been able to support a recreational fishery for brown trout (Salmo trutta) because of the low gradient and sinuous nature of the river channel and its associated lagoons and oxbows. 53

  • Native fish present include longfin eel/kuuwharuwharu (Anguilla dieffenbachii), lamprey/kanakana (Geotria australis), common bully/Pako (Gobiomorphus cotidianus), upland bully (Gobiomorphus breviceps) and non-migratory galaxiids. 4

  • Copper tussock is dominant in the riparian margins in the Styx basin, Pūkio (Carex secta) and raupo (Typha orientalis) are also common, as well as smaller rushes leafless rush/wīwī (Juncus gregiflorus) and common rush (Juncus effusus). 4

  • Other plant species present include: native starwort (Callitriche petriei), Chenopodium glaucum subsp. Ambiguum, Ranunculus glabrifolius, remuremu (Selliera radicans), cutty grass/rautahi (Carex coriacea), club rush (Eleocharis acuta), three-square (Schoenoplectus pungens), leafless rushes (Juncus australis, Juncus distegus and Juncus sarophorus), common duckweed/kārearea (Lemna minor), salt grass (Puccinellia stricta), red water fern/kārearea (Azolla filiculoides), Lepidium sisymbrioides, Carex tenuiculmis, tufted hair-grass (Deschampsia cespitosa), and New Zealand mousetail (Myosurus minimus subsp. novae-zelandiae), a spring annual which has a threat status of nationally critical. 6869

  • Native waterfowl that breed in the scroll plain include New Zealand Shoveller/Kuruwhengi (Anas rhynchotis variegata), Grey Teal/Tete (Anas gracilis), Grey Duck (Anas superciliosa), Black Swan (Cygnus atratus) and Paradise Shelduck/Putangitangi (Tadorna variegata).  Waders that have been recorded include Marsh Crake (Porzana pusilla affinis), Australasian Bittern/Matuku (Botaurus poiciloptilus), White-faced Heron (Ardea novaehollandiae novaehollandiae), Swamp Hen/Pukeko (Porphyrio porphyrio melanotus), Pied Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) and South Island Pied Oystercatcher/Torea (Haematopus ostralegus finschi). 4

  • Internationally an important waterfowl habitat, and one of the 10 most valuable in New Zealand. 69

  • Plant species within an extensive area of ephemeral turf include scented tree daisy (Olearia odorata), Crassula sinclairii, Pratia perpusilla, Lilaeopsissp., Glossostigma sp., Hydrocotyle hydrophila and Callitriche sp. 36

  • The New Zealand Landform Inventory has given the scroll plain a high rating, describing it as having scenic, scientific and educational importance. 4


  • 1 Otago Regional Council (2004) Regional Plan: Water for Otago. Published by the Otago Regional Council, Dunedin.

  • 2 Ausseil, A.G., Newsome, P., Johnson, P. (2008) Wetland Mapping in the Otago Region. Landcare Research Contract Report prepared for the Otago Regional Council.

  • 4 Peat, N. and Patrick, B. H. (1999) Wild Central. Discovering the natural history of Central Otago. Published by the University of Otago Press, Dunedin.

  • 36 Pers comm A. Rebergen, Biodiversity Officer - Otago Regional Council (2003)

  • 51 Otago Regional Council – Photo Archive.

  • 53 Davis, S.F. (1987) Wetlands of national importance to fisheries. New Zealand freshwater fisheries report no. 90. Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Christchurch.

  • 55 Central Otago District Council (2008) Central Otago District Plan, Published by Central Otago District Council, Alexandra.

  • 68 Johnson, P. (1995) Dairy Effluent in wetlands, Maniototo. Report prepared for the Otago regional Council. Published by Landcare Research, Dunedin.

  • 69 Otago Regional Council (2007) The Upper Taieri River Scroll Plain. Information sheet.  Published by the Otago Regional Council, Dunedin.

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