Lake Waiwiri (also known as Papaitonga) is a dune lake in Horowhenua. The scenic reserve is an important sanctuary for recovering wetlands birds.

Place overview


  • Bird and wildlife watching
  • Walking and tramping


  • Information panels
  • Picnic tables

Find things to do Papaitonga Scenic Reserve

About track difficulties

      About this place

      Nature and conservation

      The reserve is an important refuge for birds that depend on wetlands or lowland forests for their survival.

      Leafless mistletoe, Korthalsella salicornioides.
      Leafless mistletoe, Korthalsella salicornioides

      Papaitonga is home to waterfowl and wading birds as well as forest species on the lake’s margins.

      Lake Papaitonga and its surrounds make up 135 hectares of scenic reserve. Wetland and lush coastal forest surround the lake.

      Within the reserve is the only intact sequence from wetland to mature dry terrace forest in Wellington and Horowhenua.

      The wetland forest associations of kahikatea/pukatea, tawa and pukatea-tawa-swamp maire are now rare.

      The manuka growing on the forested side is habitat for the rare leafless mistletoe Korthalsella salicornioides.

      Lake Papaitonga. Phto: Sue Galbraith.

      History and culture

      The area was settled by the Muaupoko people during the early part of the 19th century, but they were driven from the area in 1822 by Ngati Toa people led by Te Rauparaha. Te Rauparaha had narrowly escaped death at the hands of the Muaupoko previously, in an incident that claimed the lives of his son and daughter.

      In 1897, Sir Walter Buller purchased an area including Papaitonga with the intention of protecting the land around the lake for future generations. In 1901, 27.5 ha of bush were formally established as a reserve, and the lake was added to the reserve in 1991.

      Getting there

      The entrance to the reserve is at the end of Buller Road, 5 km southwest of Levin off State Highway 1.

      Know before you go

      The Papaitonga Scenic Reserve contains rare plants and wildlife, and fragile habitats.

      Dogs, fires and other activities that may cause damage, such as hunting, mountain biking and trail bike riding, are not permitted.

      Visitors should stay on formed tracks and defined lookout areas at all times. Access to the islands on the lake is not permitted.

      Remove your rubbish. Recycle paper, glass, cans and plastic.

      Pest control operation

      DOC is carrying out possum and rat control in Lake Papaitonga Scenic Reserve. Find out more information about the operation.


      Te Papaioea / Palmerston North Office
      Phone:      +64 6 350 9700
      Full office details
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