Photograph of white oystercatcher: Tim Barnard
Adjacent to Napier city and airport, the Ahuriri estuary supports a large and varied population of birds on tidal mudflats and coastal waters.
Ahuriri Estuary is a remnant of the large wetlands that were once a major feature of Hawke’s Bay region. The long, narrow nature of this estuary combined with the wide variety of water depths provides conditions for a wide range of ecological communities. The estuary is used for shellfish gathering, swimming, sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, fishing, bird-watching, picnicking and walking.
A walkway system begins from Humber Street and is well signposted. The two kilometre track is the most popular of the Hawke’s Bay’s short walks and is managed by the Department of Conservation(DOC). It skirts the estuary, continuing across the old Embankment Bridge and back to the starting point via the northern side. It is an easy walk, taking about one hour with seating provided at suitable viewing sites.
The combined estuary and lagoon area of the Waiohinganga and Tutaekuri Rivers (known as Ko te Whanganui o roto) was a valuable food source for local Maori of the Hawke's Bay Region. On 3 February, 1931, a massive 7.8 earthquake rocked Hawke's Bay and as a result the land was raised over two metres. Ahuriri Lagoon was dramatically altered becoming almost dry land.
The Ahuriri area is important to Maori for cultural and spiritual reasons including the events that occurred on Te Pakake Island. Te Pakake was a low, sandy island located just inside the Ahuriri Heads next to Te Koau (Gough Island).
Te Pakake Island has historical importance for its function as a fishing village for the local tribes including Ngati Parau, Ngati Hinepare and Ngati Mahu, as a fighting pa (place), as a place of communal sanctuary during times of war, and as a burial ground. Perhaps what it is most well-known for is for the Battle of Te Pakake.