The Waikato region, New Zealand’s fourth largest, covers about 2.5 million hectares and has over 1,000 kilometres of coastline. There are four distinct landscapes: the Taupō volcanic zone, the Waikato and Hauraki lowlands, the western hill country and the eastern Coromandel ranges.

The landscapes of the Waikato reflect a long and turbulent history of change. Active volcanoes feature in the south while fumaroles and heated soils signal geothermal activity closely tied to the edge of the Pacific Plate.

An extensive wetland area covering the lower Waikato began forming 17,000 years ago when a volcanic eruption changed the course of the Waikato River. Blocked by ash, the river spread out into a huge fan across the flat Waikato landscape, gradually forming channels in the newly formed surface. Eventually the river consolidated in its present channel, leaving a complex of lakes and swamps on either side.

Lake Taupō and its massive caldera mark the site of some of the world’s most devastating eruptions that only 1800 years ago mantled most of the landscape with volcanic ash and pumice and started another phase of wetland development.

Dormant and long extinct volcanoes are found in central and northern parts of the region, especially in the Coromandel. Wild windswept black sand beaches characterise the west coast, while white sand and sheltered estuaries and bays characterise the east. Numerous small offshore islands are a feature of the Coromandel Peninsula. Uplifted ranges of greywacke, interspersed by alluvium and peat filled basins and incised by the mighty Waikato, Waipā and Waihou rivers cover much of the central area. In the west, ancient uplifted blocks of limestone feature in the Waitomo and Limestone Downs district south of Port Waikato.

Ecological restoration in the Waikato region is now occurring across the full range of wildland, rural, peri-urban and urban environments on lands of all tenure led by individuals, public and private agencies and various mixes thereof. This is a virtual bioregional restoration team bound by a common purpose and a network of communities of interest supported by a diverse funding model including central government taxes, regional and district/city rates, bequests, donations, and voluntary labour. This dynamic and diverse landscape will provide an exciting setting for the 2016 Ecology and Restoration Australasia conference and we thoroughly look forward to hosting you here.

Amended with permission from Restoring Waikato’s Indigenous Biodiversity: Ecological Priorities and Opportunities

The image is courtesy of Waikato Regional Council


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