Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park

Our vision: Te Kahu Ao Tuuroa o Rangitara.​

To create a world class ecological island in an urban environment. ​​

​Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park (WHNP) is the flagship project for biodiversity in our city. This science-based, community-led project, represents a vision of bringing back Hamilton’s native flora and fauna.​ Located on the outskirts of Hamilton, with access off Brymer Rd and Baverstock Rd.  WHNP is an award-winning, inter-generational ecological restoration project.

Established in 2004, the long-term aim of Waiwhakareke is to reconstruct the natural forest, wetland and lake ecosystems present in pre-European times. Intensive predator control will allow vulnerable species to flourish in an urban environment and spill over to other parts of the city. 

The 65.5ha park will serve as a focus for Hamilton’s wider biodiversity restoration, including lakes and lakeshores, the Waikato River, its banks and unique gullies, and other parks with current or potential natural values (estimated to be 750 hectares).

It will bring our natural and cultural heritage to within easy reach of New Zealand’s largest inland city, and reconnect current and future generations with their environment through enhanced education, outreach and engagement opportunities. 

To view the full development plan, click here. 

​What to expect

Veiwing platforms. Left: Kowhia Boardwalk. Right: Karaka Jetty

In order to protect and enhance the environment we ask that you don't bring your dogs and follow our outlined guidelines. This park is still a working farm so please stick to the tracks, leave gates as you find them, and don't disurb stock. 

But more importantly, take the time to enjoy this unique space and learn about its amazing flora and fauna. 


As the park adjoins the Hamilton Zoo, the existing education and wildlife protection programmes can be refocused and expanded. A central hub will enable development of a common arrival space with shared facilities. 

Thousands of hours of volunteer effort and scientific study have seen the return of rare plants and wildlife to the project area, creating a rich environmental, educational and recreational experience for visitors.

WHNP is owned and managed by Hamilton City Council, with support from Waikato University, Wintec, Waikato Regional Council and Tui 2000. It is also the site of the annual Arbor Day community planting activity.



Restoring WNHP to be a self-sustaining, pest free, ecosystem that represents pre-1840s Hamilton, and restores the mauri of this important landmark. This will be achieved by the re-creation of a small part of the once significant kahikatea-pukatea forest Te Raukaakaa, the protection of the puna (springs) and puna paru (the black iron-rich muds), planting of important flora such as flax, and predator control to encourage native fauna to return and flourish.

To protect these taonga, and the restoration of Waiwhakareke, a raahui over the area protects the site to allow restoration.​ WNHP provides an outdoor classroom to restore the traditional knowledge (maatauranga maaori) of collection and use of the natural resources provided by the wetland.​


Waiwhakareke has a rich history. In pre-European times the land was a popular transport corridor for Maaori seeking stone or taking their goods to trade across the Tasman Sea. Ngati Koura, Ngati Ruru and Ngati Ngamurikaitaua all have links to the area, some dating back more than 800 years. 

The name Waiwhakareke translates as (wai) water (whakareke) to plunge a pole.

The forests and wetland at Waiwhakareke provided a place for food and resource gathering for Maaori. Totara, matai, kauri, flax and raupo were collected for use as building materials, textiles and rope, while plants such as hinau, kahikatea, miro and raupo were collected for food (berries and pollen). Birds which fed on the trees were also snared and trapped by Maori, while fish, eel and duck were caught from the lake.

From the 1820s European settlers began arriving in the area paving the way for the land clearances of the 1860s. Maaori activity continued in the area, particularly gum digging and the removal of Kauri from the swamps for use as waka (canoes). Over the next 40-50 years – particularly following European confiscation of Maaori land after the Land Wars of the 1860s - drainage of the peat wetland increased. The draining of the wetlands allowed pastoral farming to establish on the land and it continues today.

Up until the Council purchased the area in 1975, the lake was not fenced off and was used  for swimming by children and also as a shortcut through the area via canoe. Mushroom collecting from the surrounding paddocks was common in autumn.

​The area containing Waiwhakareke formally came into the city in November 1989, and the boundaries of the city's urban areas have expanded toward WHNP in recent years​.​​

Page reviewed: 05 Jun 2020 11:34am