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Conway River Piri-tūtae-putaputa 

The Conway River/Piri-tūtae-putaputa (Māori) forms part of the boundary between the Canterbury and Marlborough region. Originating in the Amuri Ranges (click for interactive catchment map) near Palmer Saddle, and gaining water from the Charwell River, the Conway River travels some 30km east through the Hundalee Hills on the southern side of the Kaikoura Ranges.

Along the upper and middle parts, the river has steep banks with ancient river terraces high above the riverbed as well as narrow but unmistakably braided river characteristics. Turning north-east at the State Highway 1 (SH1) bridge at Hundalee, the river turns south-east before discharging into the Pacific Ocean at Conway Flat.

There’s a small coastal lagoon/hapua (Māori) at the rivermouth, sheltered behind a barrier beach that only occasionally opens to sea. This small saltmash lagoon, like the Waipara River hapua, is an important habitat for many species.

Conway River at Conway Flat Road
Conway River at Conway Flat Road

Water flow

Conway River mouth
Conway River mouth

Impacts from the Kaikoura earthquake sequence

The 7.8 (Mw) Kaikoura earthquake sequence in 2016 resulted in large, landscape-scale changes to sections of the the river catchment. Parts of the river were blocked or changed course due to faults and landslips, resulting in flooding and new lakes forming behind (often unstable) natural dams. These are a selection of videos taken from the air showing some aspects of those (in many cases permanent) changes to the river. The long term impacts on flora and fauna is unknown.

Inspection of newly formed dam (20 December 2016)
Dam breach (07 April 2017)

References & research material

  • ECan document library: enter ‘Conway River’ in the keywords’ search field
  • DOC catalogue of scientific publications: enter the relevant search terms in the search dialogue box. You may need to vary your search, for example ‘black stilt’ gives far more results than ‘kaki’ or ‘kakī’
  • See Rivers for a more comprehesive list of braided rivers research and reference material