Select Page


story map

Click on the image to explore a story map that illustrates the complexity of the catchment: its history, environment, communities and planned port development. Learn about the challenges we face in restoring its ecological and cultural health.

Photo by: Greg O’Beirne

Cultural values

Whakaraupō/Lyttelton Harbour has cultural, spiritual, historical and traditional importance for Ngāi Tahu, particularly for the Papatipu Rūnanga Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke, who have mana whenua and mana moana (customary authority) over the harbour basin. The takiwā (territory) of Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke centres on Rāpaki on the northern shore of the harbour to the west of Lyttelton.

In the past, Whakaraupō provided a reliable and abundant supply of kaimoana for Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke and manuhiri (visitors), and the surrounding catchment also provided valuable food, weaving and building material. The harbour remains of immense cultural significance and its restoration as mahinga kai is a key objective of the Whakaraupō/ Lyttelton Harbour Catchment Management Plan.

The harbour environment

The catchment has a number of areas of high ecological value. The tidal mudflats and salt marshes of the upper harbour support estuarine and other wetland bird species and are likely to be breeding grounds for several fish species. Ripapa Island is home to a nationally endangered brachiopod (Pumilas antiquatus) and is listed in the Regional Coastal Environmental Plan, along with the coastal marine area of Godley Head and the Whakaraupō/ Lyttelton Harbour tidal flats, as an area of significant natural value.

The harbour supports a wide variety of fish species and is frequented by the endangered Hector’s dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori). Benthic communities (those species living on or in the bed of the harbour), including many types of shellfish, are prevalent, and vary in composition depending on their location within the harbour. On land, nesting sites for the nationally vulnerable white-flippered blue penguin (Eudyptula minor albosignata) exist on Quail Island and the southern coastline between Camp Bay and Little Port Cooper.

The harbour communities

Today, residents of the communities located within the Lyttelton Harbour/Whakaraupō basin engage with and value the harbour for many different reasons.

The area is popular for recreation and the resident population of more than 6,000 people, and visitors from Christchurch City and wider Canterbury, enjoy boating, fishing, swimming, walking and many other leisure activities in the catchment.

Lyttelton Port is the largest port and container service in the South Island. The port provides a critical link in both New Zealand and global trade networks, and is a significant local employer.

The critical issues

Over time, the increasing human population and related changes in land use have had a significant impact on the ecological health of the harbour, particularly in terms of water quality.

Ongoing erosion and sedimentation is of particular concern, along with the discharge to harbour water of contaminants in treated effluent and stormwater.

In addition, Lyttelton Port is expanding to meet the future demands of shipping and trade. Development activities have the potential to impact adversely on the wider harbour environment if not carefully managed.

Lyttelton Port Company is committed to minimising and/or mitigating any negative impact of port activities; coordination with other mitigation and restoration activities in the harbour will enhance outcomes for the catchment.

To learn more about the catchment and the challenges faced in restoring its ecological and cultural health, visit the Whakaraupō storymap