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About Tauranga Harbour

Tauranga Harbour












Tauranga Harbour is a large tidal estuary covering an area of 218 square kilometres. To drive from one end of the harbour to the other would take you about one hour and cover over 60 kilometres. 

See a snapshot (pdf, 379KB) of Regional Council's work in and around Tauranga Harbour in 2015/16.

Tangata whenua of Tauranga Moana

Tauranga Harbour or Te Awanui which is the Maori name for it, is a physical and spiritual symbol of identity for all whanau, hapu and iwi living in the harbour catchment area.

The name 'Tauranga' means 'landing place.'  Local iwi and hapu have several versions of how the name came to be attached to the harbour.

The harbour catchment

The surrounding land from which water runs into the harbour is used extensively for urban, horticultural and agricultural purposes. The Tauranga area is one of New Zealand's fastest growing residential areas. The climate of the area provides ideal conditions for growing fruit such as kiwifruit and avocados. There is also land in the catchment that is ideal for sheep and cattle grazing.

See maps that show where different community values and activities are located around the Tauranga Harbour catchment.

East to West 

At the eastern end of the harbour is the landmark Mauao (Mount Maunganui) and the city of Tauranga. This entrance is deeper and allows for a large amount of cargo ships to enter and leave the Port of Tauranga. At the western end is the small coastal settlement of Otawhiwhi or Bowentown. This entrance is shallower but is often used by recreational boaties.

Matakana Island

Largely covered by pine plantations, Matakana Island forms a natural barrier between the harbour and the Pacific Ocean. Matakana Island is also home to a number of people who live in the island's settlement. The island is largely covered in plantation pines for forestry. The sheltered side of the island has inlets and lagoons and the ocean side of the island is popular with local surfers.

Tidal waters

The harbour waters are mostly shallow. At low tide more than 60 per cent of the harbour bed is exposed. The estuaries of Tauranga Harbour are home to many kinds of wildlife. Young fish spawn in the shallow waters and many birds nest on the harbour margins. A large volume of water enters and leaves the harbour with each tide.

Valuable resource

The harbour has long been an important resource for the people of the Bay of Plenty. For Maori, the harbour has strong spiritual significance and is a traditional source of food. Flounder, kahawai, mussels and cockles are some of the kaimoana (seafood) that can be collected from the harbour. There are often limits as to how much can be collected and where they can be collected from.   

Economic activity

Commercial activity revolves around the Port of Tauranga which operates several kilometres of wharves on land which has been reclaimed from the harbour at Sulphur Point and at Mount Maunganui. Established in 1873, the port handles more export cargo than any other port in the country.


Tauranga Harbour is home to many special plants and animals. Find out more.

Watch a Bay of Plenty Times video of marine life in Tauranga Harbour.

Publications and fact sheets

Visit our Knowledge Centre for factsheets and documents about Tauranga Harbour.

See environmental monitoring information and research reports about Tauranga Harbour.