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About the Waipa river

Waipa River
Waipā River

The Waipa River is the largest tributary of the Waikato River. The Waipa River starts its journey to the sea from Pekepeke in the Rangitoto Range in the southern King Country, east of Te Kuiti.

From there it flows through land which was once native bush, wetlands and peat bogs. Now, the landscape is mostly farmland and steep hill country.

The Waipa River flows northwards through the towns of Otorohanga, Pirongia and Whatawhata, before meeting the Waikato River at its confluence in Ngaruawahia, 115km from its headwaters in Pekepeke.

The Waipa River is a tupuna (ancestor), a taonga (treasure), and the mauri (life force) of Ngati Maniapoto. Find out about the relationship Ngati Maniapoto has with the Waipa River and their concerns about its health in the preamble to the Nga Wai o Maniapoto (Waipa River) Act 2012.

Water quality in the Waipa River

The Waipa River flows through a changed landscape. In the past the river left native forests and flowed through wetlands and peat bogs producing its distinctive tannin-stained brownish colour. Today, it flows through farmland with steep, erosion prone hillsides. This means that the Waipa River carries a lot of sediment, making it a murky brown colour.

Find out about how clean the Waipa River is and about water quality trends.

Check out Waikato Regional Council's indicators of river water quality for ecological health and for contact recreation (for example, swimming).

Looking after the Waipa River

Waikato Regional Council measures water quality every month at five sites along the Waipa River to assess the suitability for contact recreation (such as swimming) and for the plants and animals that live there.

Find out more about how we measure water quality. Use our map of sites along the Waipā River, the Waikato River and on our other rivers and streams to check out water quality in your local area.

Measuring the Waipa River's water quality helps Waikato Regional Council develop policy on how we will address the issues and activities affecting water quality in the Waipa River.

For policy information on rivers and streams check out the Regional Plan (water module) and Regional Policy Statement (water).

Place an order for one of our published factsheets.

Key Facts


115km – the Waikato River’s largest tributary


Pekepeke in the Rangitoto Range east of Te Kuiti


Flows into Waikato River at Ngaruawahia

Passes through

Otorohanga and Pirongia

Taonga to

Maniapoto people.

 Find out more about the history of the Waipa River.