About the catchment

Cultural values

Whakaraupō/Lyttelton Harbour has cultural, spiritual, historical and traditional importance for Ngāi Tahu, particularly for the 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/Lyttelton Harbour 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 Whaka-Ora Healthy Harbour Plan.”

Ecological values

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.

Harbour communities

The residents of Whakaraupō/Lyttelton Harbour engage with and value the harbour for many different reasons. Locals and visitors from Christchurch and wider Canterbury value the connections they have with the harbour through fishing and food gathering, sailing, paddling, swimming, and walking the various tracks along the shore and in the surrounding hills. Many residents are involved in maintaining and restoring areas of the harbour, including through stream restoration, planting, beach clean ups and education initiatives, and through participation in environmental trusts, committees and community boards.

Lyttelton port

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. Generations of locals have worked at the Port, and its industrial aesthetic and hum of activity have become a part of Lyttelton’s identity.

Key issues

Over time, increasing human population and related changes in land use have had a significant effect on the ecological health of Whakaraupō/Lyttelton Harbour. Key issues include ongoing erosion and sedimentation and the discharge of contaminants into the harbour through treated effluent and stormwater. As Lyttelton Port expands to meet the future demands of shipping and trade, development activities must also be carefully managed to protect the health of the harbour.

To learn more about the people, environment and issues facing Whakaraupō/Lyttelton Harbour, click on the Story Map button below.