Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park

Mist over lake at WaiwhakarekeOur vision: Te Kahu Ao Tuuroa o Rangitara.​

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

​Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park 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, Waiwhakareke is an award-winning, intergenerational ecological restoration project.

Waiwhakareke was established in 2004 with the long-term aim of reconstructing 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

Kowhia Boardwalk

Karaka Jetty

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

In order to protect and enhance the environment, we ask that you don't bring your dogs. Please also stick to the tracks. Most importantly, take the time to enjoy this unique space and learn about its amazing flora and fauna. 

Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park


As the park adjoins the Hamilton Zoo, the existing education and wildlife protection programmes can be refocused and expanded. We're building a new shared entry to showcase this important conservation precinct - the Hamilton Zoo on one side of the road and Waiwhakareke across the road. The project will also deliver safe access for pedestrians and all modes of transport, improved bus facilities and an upgrade of Brymer Road. Find out more here.

Map of Waiwhakareke upgrades

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.

Waiwhakareke 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.

carousel image of different spots at Waiwhakareke  

People + Cities + Nature - Restoring Indigenous Nature in Urban Environments Ecology

The goal is to make Waiwhakareke 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. Waiwhakareke provides an outdoor classroom to restore the traditional knowledge (maatauranga Maaori) of collection and use of the natural resources provided by the wetland.​ Research teams from the inter-disciplinary People, Cities & Nature research programme led by the University of Waikato are studying aspects of native and exotic flora and fauna within the park.


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 that 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 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 the park in recent years​.​​

Page reviewed: 31 May 2021 8:20am