Southland’s Creeks & Streams

The headwaters of three of the region’s largest rivers, Ōreti, Mataura and Aparima, flow through Northern Southland and are home to diverse and important wildlife including fish, invertebrates and birds.

The Ōreti River
The Ōreti River originates in the Thomson Mountains to the east of the Mavora Lakes, and flows east through Mossburn, Lumsden and then south to the sea. The river travels initially through wind-parched high tussock land, then down into farmland on the plains.

Wide gravel beaches, intriguing deep water holes and good picnic spots make it popular with anglers, while at the scenic Three Kings, it flows between two towering buttresses.

Several native fish species live in the river, including long-finned eel and four galaxiid species (two kinds of kōkopu, īnanga and kōaro). Upstream reaches are dominated by relatively high densities of non-migratory southern flathead galaxias.

The Ōreti is covered by a Water Conservation Order, recognising its tikanga value to Māori, its black-billed gull habitat and angling amenity of the river and its tributaries.

Gollum galaxias and southern flathead galaxias are found in Lumsden Creek. Both native fish species are threatened and found only in Southland.

Gollum galaxias from the Lumsden Stream

The Mataura River
With its headwaters located in mountains to the south of Lake Wakatipu, the Mataura River flows south east towards Gore before heading south to the sea. A river of significance for local Kāī Tahu, it was renowned as a place to gather food (kāinga mahinga kai) including lamprey (kanakana), which was once found in abundance here.

The Aparima River
The Aparima has its headwaters in the Takitimu mountains and flows southward for some 105km. The Mataura and Aparima also provide important habitat for black-billed gulls.

Dolomedes dondalei - one of NZ’s largest aquatic spiders can reach up to 70mm in length and hunts for insects and even small fish around our waterways.
The braided rivers of Northern Southland are important breeding grounds of the endangered Banded Dotteral / tūturiwhatu.
The Irthing Stream with its source high in the Eyre mountains, flows through beech forest and into the Ōreti River.
Stoneflies and other aquatic invertebrates can often be found under rocks on the Ōreti River at Lumsden. Pictured is one of more than 100 species of stonefly found nationwide.

Did you know?

We are lucky to have Gollum galaxias living in the Lumsden Creek. They are a threatened species, found only in the creeks and streams of Southland. Named after Gollum from Lord of the Rings, because of their ‘ugly’ appearance, but we think they’re beautiful.

The name Mataura comes from the Maori words mata (‘red’) and ura (‘eddying’). The red colouring of the water is caused by iron oxides in the local swamps.
‘Whitebait’ are the juveniles of several native migratory galaxias including inanga, banded kōkopu, giant kōkopu, kōaro and shortjaw kōkopu, along with common smelt. Both migratory and non-migratory species of galaxias can be found in Northern Southland.
Look under rocks on our braided rivers and you can find all kinds of interesting insects, including mayfly, stonefly and caddisfly larvae.
Our rivers, streams and wetlands are important breeding grounds and/or habitat for several endangered native birds including Banded dotteral, Black billed gulls and Bittern.
It’s not just fish and birds that live in and around our waterways. If you are lucky you may spot a ‘fishing’ spider; a nocturnal spider that hunts around the edges of waterways, and dives underwater to escape predators.