Southland's coastline is 3,400km long; the longest of any region in New Zealand, and one seventh of New Zealand's total.
It extends from Fiordland in the west (Awarua Point) round the south coast to the Catlins in the east (Waiparau Head) and includes the coast of Stewart Island/Rakiura and other nearby islands. Southland's coastal waters lie in the Tasman Sea, Foveaux Strait and the Pacific Ocean.
Travelling along Southland's coastline you'll find a mix of flat sandy beaches, rocky outcrops and native forest, all providing an abundance of recreational opportunities.
Our beaches and dunes are very dynamic systems, and change rapidly. They are home to a number of plants and animals, some deep within the sand. These areas are particularly sensitive to:
- freshwater discharge and changes in sediment supply
- sea level rise
- vehicle use
- oil spills
- introduced species (particularly marram grass)
What we are doing
As part of our State of the Environment monitoring programme, we monitored a number of aspects along the coastal environment from the water quality of bathing and shellfish collection areas to sandy/rocky shore monitoring as an indicator of ecological health.
Beach/rocky shore monitoring
Sandy beach and rocky shore monitoring was part of our long-term coastal monitoring programme. Sandy beach monitoring used dune profile, grain size and biological diversity as indicators of health. Rocky shore monitoring measured biological diversity to indicate the state of the rocky shore community.
We monitored Orepuki Beach, Porpoise Bay Beach, Stirling Point Rocky Shore and Waipapa Point Rocky Shore. These reports are available below.
Report - Fine Scale Monitoring - Orepuki Beach - 2011/12
Report - Fine Scale Monitoring - Porpoise Bay Beach - 2011/12
Report - Fine Scale Rocky Shore Monitoring - Stirling Point - 2012
Report - Fine Scale Rocky Shore Monitoring - Waipapa Point - 2012
Report - Fine Scale Monitoring - Orepuki Beach - 2010/11
Report - Fine Scale Monitoring - Orepuki Beach - 2012/13
Report - Fine Scale Monitoring - Porpoise Bay Beach - 2010/11
Report - Fine Scale Monitoring - Porpoise Bay Beach - 2009/10
Report - Recreational Bathing Survey - Summary of Results - 2015
Report - Recreational Waters of Southland - 2013
Recreational water quality monitoring (Summer)
We monitor 13 marine bathing sites for enterococci bacteria over summer. Southland's recreational bathing water quality is assessed and reported according to national guidelines set by the Ministry for the Environment and Ministry of Health.
Click here for more on the bathing water quality programme and results.
Shellfish water quality monitoring
Water quality is monitored at eight popular shellfish gathering sites. This monitoring occurs on a monthly basis over the entire year.
Click here for more on this monitoring programme and results.
Southland Coastal Heritage Inventory Project (SCHIP)
The Southland Coastal Heritage Inventory Project is a partnership between Environment Southland, the Department of Conservation, the Southland District Council, the Invercargill City Council, New Zealand Historic Places Trust and Te Ao Marama Inc. (representing the four Murihiku Papatipu Rūnanga for resource management purposes). The project was founded in 2003 with the aim of understanding the nature and extent of coastal heritage in Murihiku/Southland. In 2013 this important project continues, implementing, a monitoring programme for the most threatened historic sites and completing management actions to protect the region's coastal heritage.
Read an more about the SCHIP project in our Envirosouth magazine:
What you can do
Check the bathing and shellfish monitoring results so you know your risk and are informed before heading out.
Caring for toheroa
toheroa has long been esteemed as one of our finest sea foods, but
unfortunately supplies are limited and strict controls have to be
enforced. This clam burrows deeply in sand on beaches that are backed by
extensive sand dunes.
Southland's toheroa population is a
relative rarity. Populations of this size don't occur on other New
Zealand beaches and they are considered a valuable treasure for the
region. There is no official gathering season, however the fishery is
well managed under a permit system, with permits issued by Tangata
The toheroa at Oreti Beach are an exceptional resource,
which needs to be valued and appreciated, as well as protected for the
Results of the survey showed vehicles had a clear
detrimental impact on the young toheroa, with traffic believed to be
responsible for killing 23% of juveniles annually. This means the
public should try to avoid driving along the area from the high tide
mark for about 50 metres towards the water, as this is where the
juvenile toheroa have buried themselves. The juvenile toheroa have a fragile shell and are in shallow sand, so they are most at risk.