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Our natural environment

Diverse landscapes, plants and animals make up the natural environment of the Waikato region. Much has changed since people have settled here. Today, very little of our native vegetation and once extensive wetlands remain. Only a few of our region’s beaches are undeveloped. Now, familiar landscapes are pasture, plantation forestry and urban areas.

Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe

The Waikato region covers most of the central North Island. About 25,000 km2, or 2.5 million hectares in area, it stretches from the Bombay Hills and the Coromandel Peninsula in the north to the slopes of Mt Ruapehu in the south.

The Waikato region has more than 100 lakes, ranging from small peat lakes to the largest lake in New Zealand, Lake Taupo.

Our coastline stretches for about 1,150 km - from the rugged West Coast to the sparkling white sands of our East Coast.

We have settled the land and changed the natural environment dramatically. Over the last 150 years people have made many changes to this land – forests have been cleared and wetlands drained. Today only 28 percent of our native vegetation and 25 percent of our wetlands remain. Only a few beaches are undeveloped and coastal subdivision for housing and holiday homes continues to put pressure on our coasts natural character.

The region contains a diverse range of native plants and animals. Our biodiversity has been hard hit by loss of habitat from the changes we have made to the landscape. At least 100 species of native plants and animals are threatened with extinction (including all of the bats and frogs and 30 percent of the birds).

Find out more about the native plants and animals in the Waikato region.

Water quality for ecological health and air quality is generally good across the region. Check out our information about rivers, lakes and wetlands in the Waikato region and about the climate and air quality. Find out about our land and soil resources and the geology of our varied landscapes and our coasts.

Looking after the region’s environment

The Waikato Regional Council manages the effects of using the region’s natural environment on the air, water, land, coasts and the plants and animals that live there. We process resource consent applications for the use of water, air, coast and land resources and provide environmental education and information to the Waikato community, including working with schools.

We collect a wide range of information on land, water, soil, plants and animals and monitor consented activities. We also collect information on the social, economic and cultural characteristics of our region.

A recent survey of people living in the region found that more than half were taking actions in their daily lives to help care for the environment. In local communities Care groups have been set up around the region to care for lakes, streams, rivers, land and beaches.

The Waikato Regional Council publishes a range of factsheets about the Waikato region's environment. Check out our publications.

Find out about the work that the Waikato Regional Council does to manage the region’s environment. Check out our policies and plans for managing the environment.