Tasman River

Part of the Upper Waitaki River catchment, the 25km Tasman River is an outflow of the Tasman, Murchison, Hooker and Mueller Glaciers in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. It is included here as a separate page because significant conservation activities are being undertaken in this conservation land, as part of Project River Recovery which has been incorporated into the much larger recently formed Te Manahuna Aoraki Conservation Project.

This video features the area on the Tasman River where black stilt/kakī live, the last stronghold for the most endangered wading bird in the world.

Biodiversity & cultural significance

Important Bird Areas on Tasman River: links to 6-page PDF file that includes maps, habitat types, and threats relevant to this river. This document was extracted from Forest & Bird’s 177-page 20Mb file on all rivers, lakes, and coastal areas.

Water flow

Tasman Glacier (foreground – darker areas are moraine over the ice) on the eastern side of Aoraki Mt Cook (right), and Tasman River (centre back)
Tasman Glacier (foreground – darker areas are moraine over the ice) on the eastern side of Aoraki Mt Cook (right), and Tasman River (centre back)

Conservation activities

  • Te Manahuna Aoraki is a large-scale conservation project focused on restoring the iconic natural landscapes and threatened species of the upper Mackenzie Basin and Aoraki National Park.

    Launched in November 2018, the project will enhance biodiversity across 310,000 hectares of New Zealand’s most stunning landscapes, including braided river systems, alpine habitats and Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.

    The area is home to many endangered species like kea, rock wren and the scree weta in the alpine zone and braided river species like wrybill, robust grasshopper, banded dotterel, and the world’s rarest wading bird, kakī/black stilt.

  • Project River Recovery and the Kakī recovery programme are working together to test a catchment-wide predator trapping regime in the Tasman River. This project involves a range of predator control and monitoring techniques. See the Project River Recovery Strategic Plan 2012-2019.
  • Tasman predator control project
  • Update on Kaki Programme (2017)
  • Outcomes Predator Control Project (2017)
  • The breeding success of several braided river birds – wrybill, banded dotterel and black-fronted tern – is being monitored over five years to assess whether this level of predator control is helping these birds.
Water from the Hooker Glacier feeds into the Tasman River from the western side of Aoraki Mt Cook (centre background)
Water from the Hooker Glacier feeds into the Tasman River from the western side of Aoraki Mt Cook (centre background)

References & research material

  • DOC Project River Recovery: 12-page bibliography of all reports, theses, diplomas, Department of Conservation publications and scientific papers produced or supported by the Project 1991-2007
  • DOC  River Life – 26-page PDF on the ecology and geological history of the Mackenzie basin
  • See this 2019 video of kakī’ being released into the Godley River
  • 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’
  • ECan document library: enter ‘Tasman River’ in the ‘keywords‘ search field at the top of this page
  • See Rivers for a more comprehensive list of braided rivers research and reference material