Rakatu wetlands

Rakatu wetlands locator mapLocation

Adjacent to the Lower Waiau River, these wetlands are accessible from the Southern Scenic Route (Clifden-Blackmount Road). They are 17km from Manapouri village and 7km downstream of the Manapouri Lake Control Structure.

Visitors are welcome, and access is free.

About the project

Rakatu Wetlands is the Trust’s largest and most ambitious project to date. This 278 ha property (purchased by the Trust in June 2000), is located, on the flood plain of the Lower Waiau River. Fiordland National Park forms the western backdrop to the property. 

This article was published in the NZ Herald December 2019 regarding the wetland restoration's 21st anniversary: pdf download (1.7Mb)

The Rakatu Wetlands reserve.The Rakatu Wetlands is a fantastic place to visit. A walking track and information kiosk provide a great opportunity to understand this great wetland resource.

The vision for this property

To create an ecologically sustainable wetland/small stream ecosystem complex, for the benefit of fisheries and wildlife in the Rakatu/Redcliff area of the Lower Waiau River catchment. The complex will incorporate and link with the existing Redcliff Wildlife Reserve.

To provide public access to facilitate the public’s enjoyment, recreational use and aesthetic appreciation of the resources, and to educate and enhance the public understanding of the fisheries and wildlife habitat and the Waiau Trust’s objectives.

What’s been happening

Since owning the property the Trust has:

  • protected 65ha of natural wetlands,
  • created 50ha of new open water habitat
  • built a new 1.4km access road
  • constructed 9km of public walking tracks and associated visitor facilities
  • installed and maintained a pest animal trap network
  • carried out pest plant control
  • monitored the ecological response to enhancement (fish and bird surveys)
  • opened property to the public in 2006.
  • leased some land for sheep grazing, for ongoing income
  • managed and established exotic forest blocks, for income.

Wetland design to maximise habitat diversity

Rakatu wetlands early photo showing the dam.An early photo shows the dam constructed to hold back water in the reserve. Native vegetation is now well established.

Creating the new wetlands was based around the natural landforms. Dams were built across drained and dewatered wetlands and across abandoned river channels. New wetlands have been linked to remnant natural wetlands.

Wetlands have long and shallow shorelines to benefit wading birds and the dabbling duck species.

Riparian margins are a mix of long/coarse vegetation, providing good cover for nesting and shorter vegetation to the waters’ edge for the open ground nesting and wading bird species.

Fish passage between all wetlands and the Lower Waiau River is provided at all times.

Species living at Rakatu


Long-finned Eel, Non- migratory Galaxiids, Upland Bully, and the introduced Brown trout.



NZ Scaup, Shoveler Duck, Mallard Duck, Grey Teal, Paradise Shelduck, Grey Duck, Black Swan, Canada Goose.

Water Associated Species

Pukeko, SI Fernbird, SI Pied Oystercatcher, Spur-winged Plover, Black Shag, Little Shag, White-faced Heron, Pied Stilt, Black-backed Gull, Black-billed Gull, Black-fronted Tern, Australasian Bittern, Marsh Crake.

Other Species

Bellbird, Grey Warbler, NZ Falcon, Harrier Hawk, Welcome Swallow, Silver Eye, NZ Pipit, Fantail, Tui