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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


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One of the main rivers of Southland, it rises in the Takitimu mountains and flows southward for some 65 miles to enter Foveaux Strait at Riverton. As a shore whaling station in the 1830s it was known as “Jacob's River”, subsequently Riverton. The catchment area is some 344 sq. miles, and a representative discharge measured at Otautau Bridge on 9 June 1954 was 1,120 cusecs. Floods have occurred periodically and in 1913 a flow of 35,000 cusecs was measured at Wreys Bush bridge. For the most part the river flows through good farm land on the Southland Plains, with clear pools on a gravelly bed. It is popular with fishermen and, in summer, with campers and picnickers. The wide estuary at its mouth at Riverton affords shelter for a small fishing fleet and is the scene of boating and swimming activities in summer.

The origin of the name is uncertain. Some think it was named after a chieftainess, others after Apolima, an island in the Pacific. A more literal translation gives “company of five” or “a band of five workmen”.

by Bryce Leslie Wood, M.SC., New Zealand Geological Survey, Dunedin.


Bryce Leslie Wood, M.SC., New Zealand Geological Survey, Dunedin.