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  • Aotearoa New Zealand has more than 3,800 lakes larger than 1 hectare (about the size of a rugby field). Even though there is an abundance of lakes in Aotearoa, many are tucked away.

    I think that most New Zealanders don’t know about 90% of lakes in Aotearoa New Zealand. Many of our lakes are either in national parks in quite remote areas or they are on private land so that most people wouldn’t know they are there.

    Dr Susie Wood, Lakes380 co-leader

    Finding out about a local freshwater system provides opportunities for:

    • local curriculum design
    • building knowledge of local mātauranga and concepts including mauri, wairua, wai ora, ki uta ki tai and mahinga kai
    • building knowledge of science concepts such as lake origins, catchment areas and water quality.
    Rights: Crown copyright, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

    Lake Ngakapua

    Lake Ngakapua is a small lake situated north of Kaitaia. The two basins are separated by a dense bed of kuta. The lake sits on privately owned land.

    Image courtesy of Lakes380 – Our lakes’ health: past, present, future.

    In this activity, students use a combination of online resources to identify and explore lakes in their local area. The activity can be a simple online discovery or it can be expanded to include an in-depth inquiry of a lake, its catchment area, its current state of health and its history.

    By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

    • use an online map to locate lakes
    • use online resources to gather and interpret data about the lakes – for example, catchment information and/or water quality
    • draw on mātauranga and community stories of how the lakes used to be and explore changes over time
    • identify issues of importance and consider actions they may like to take.

    Download the Word file (see link below).

    Related content

    These resources provide background information about lakes in Aotearoa along with some key mātauranga and science concepts:

    Activity ideas

    These activities provide opportunities for observation inside the classroom and in the local environment:

    If students are interested in exploring environmental issues regarding a local lake, consider using the Inquiry and action learning process.

    Ake Ake – forever and ever uses pictorial mapping to represent what students would like the future to look like. The model highlights the values of the past, the issues of maintaining values in the present and also what the future map looks like.

    Useful links

    These resources are useful for locating lakes. Many provide information about water quality/mauri of the lake, land use in the catchment and accessibility:


    This resource has been developed in collaboration with Lakes380 – Our lakes’ health: past, present, future (C05X1707), Cawthron Institute and GNS Science.

    Rights: Crown Copyright, Cawthron Institute and GNS Science

    Lakes380 – Our lakes’ health: past, present, future

    Lakes380 is a national project to gain in-depth understanding of the current and historical health of lakes in Aotearoa New Zealand. The project was co-led by GNS Science and Cawthron Institute and funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (C05X1707;

      Published 9 February 2023 Referencing Hub articles
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