Jewel of the eastern Bay of Plenty
The Ohiwa Harbour is a large shallow estuary situated 11 kilometres east of Whakatane and 16 kilometres west of Opotiki in the eastern Bay of Plenty, in the North Island of New Zealand.
The Harbour is one of New Zealand's most unspoiled and the area has long been special to many people for many reasons. People appreciate its landscapes, natural beauty, water quality, recreational activities, heritage places and values, clean air and productive land.
The catchment extends far inland into the upper reaches of the Nukuhou River. The landscape that embraces the Harbour is in places rolling hill country and in others steep and dramatic. A multitude of peninsulas, spurs and gullies form a convoluted harbour edge that is dotted with salt-marshes, wetlands and mudflats.
The inner Harbour is protected to the north-west by the Ohope spit and to the north-east by the Ohiwa spit and dunes system. There are 10 small islands in the Harbour and many channels and sandbanks which shift and meander with the tides and seasons.
The Harbour surrounds an area with a mix of native vegetation, exotic forestry, horticulture and pasture with many lifestyle blocks, clusters of houses and baches and the large residential area of Ohope.
The Harbour is home to a multitude of marsh and shore birds, shellfish and fish species. Boating, sightseeing, swimming, water sports, shellfish gathering and fishing are all extremely popular with locals and visitors.
Issues and community values
Balancing development and recreational activities in the Harbour and catchment with protection or enhancement of natural and cultural values is the greatest challenge faced by the area.
In 2002, the Bay of Plenty Regional Council launched a process to find out what the local community and organisations valued about the Harbour and how it should be managed. The result of this process was the Ohiwa Harbour Strategy. The major themes and values that emerged from the Ohiwa Harbour Strategy consultation include:
- Health of the estuary
- Recreation values
- Managing development pressures
- Natural areas, plants and animals
- A more informed community.
The Strategy is a guiding document, but more importantly, it drives a strong cooperative working partnership between Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Whakatane and Opotiki District Councils, Department of Conservation, Upokorehe, Whakatohea, Waimana Kaaku (Tuhoe) and Ngati Awa. The partners work collectively and individually to plan and take action for the management, protection and enhancement of the Harbour. The community also plays an important role in this work. Landowners and managers and Care Groups have made, and continue to make, an enormous difference to the long-term health of the Harbour and its catchment.
Read more about how local people are contributing to the Ohiwa Harbour in the case study - Nukuhou farmers making a difference: Margaret and Michael Kirk.