WAIPA RIVER, WAIKATO DISTRICT
The Waipa River is the major tributary of the Waikato River, the junction being at Ngaruawahia. Its catchment area measures approximately 1,100 sq. miles and is one-fifth of the total catchment for the Waikato River. The headwaters of the Waipa River lie within the Rangitoto Range, the main tributaries joining it at Pirongia and Otorohanga. Thence it flows northwards along the western margin of the Hamilton Lowlands where it has been forced by sedimentation deposited by the Waikato River. A minimum flow of 718 cusecs was measured in 1946 and a flood flow of over 20,000 cusecs was measured in the May 1953 floods. The Waipa contributes greatly to flooding in the Waikato Valley; in 1953 it carried about half the flood water.
Before the arrival of white settlers and during the early period of their occupation, the Waipa River (possibly meaning “the river of fortified villages”) was an important access route to the western margin of “The Waikato”, to the Raglan County, and to the “King Country” which lies to the south of the Puniu River. Therefore many pas and some of the first mission stations were established along its banks, and from them grain, corn, and dairy products were sent to early Auckland. Now the Waipa is no longer used for transportation and the neighbouring farm land is almost wholly used for the dairy industries.
by James Cecil Schofield, M.SC., New Zealand Geological Survey, Otahuhu.