Awatere River

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Awatere River
Medway Bridge, Awatere Valley.jpg
Etymologytranslation of "swift river"
Native nameAwatere  (Māori)
Country New Zealand
Region Marlborough
Physical characteristics
Cook Strait
41°36′29″S174°10′01″E / 41.608°S 174.167°E / -41.608; 174.167 Coordinates: 41°36′29″S174°10′01″E / 41.608°S 174.167°E / -41.608; 174.167
Length110 kilometres (68 mi)

The Awatere River is a large river flowing through Marlborough, New Zealand. Flowing along the trace of the active Awatere Fault, it runs northeast through a straight valley to the west of the Inland Kaikoura mountains. This valley is parallel with that of the Waiau Toa / Clarence River, 20 kilometres (12 mi) to the south.


It flows for 110 kilometres (68 mi) from its source in the mountainous interior to reach Cook Strait close to the town of Seddon.

The New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage gives a translation of "swift river" for Awatere. [1]


The Awatere River valley, which corresponds to the statistical area of Awatere, covers 3,273.52 km2 (1,263.91 sq mi), [2] and includes the settlements of Seddon and Ward. It had an estimated population of 1,750 as of June 2021, [3] with a population density of 0.5 people per km2.

Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
Source: [4]

Awatere had a population of 1,617 at the 2018 New Zealand census, a decrease of 9 people (-0.6%) since the 2013 census, and an increase of 9 people (0.6%) since the 2006 census. There were 594 households. There were 855 males and 759 females, giving a sex ratio of 1.13 males per female. The median age was 42.8 years (compared with 37.4 years nationally), with 324 people (20.0%) aged under 15 years, 222 (13.7%) aged 15 to 29, 822 (50.8%) aged 30 to 64, and 246 (15.2%) aged 65 or older.

Ethnicities were 89.8% European/Pākehā, 13.2% Māori, 4.6% Pacific peoples, 1.9% Asian, and 1.7% other ethnicities (totals add to more than 100% since people could identify with multiple ethnicities).

The proportion of people born overseas was 13.5%, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people objected to giving their religion, 51.6% had no religion, 37.7% were Christian, 0.2% were Muslim and 1.3% had other religions.

Of those at least 15 years old, 174 (13.5%) people had a bachelor or higher degree, and 249 (19.3%) people had no formal qualifications. The median income was $34,700, compared with $31,800 nationally. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 795 (61.5%) people were employed full-time, 231 (17.9%) were part-time, and 21 (1.6%) were unemployed. [4]

Awatere River bridge

Awatere River rail bridge north of Seddon Awatere River rail bridge north of Seddon.jpg
Awatere River rail bridge north of Seddon

In 1887 the Awatere River was without any bridge crossing and at the time was noted by Parliament to be the only river not bridged between Picton and Bluff. Planning of a 325-metre joint road and rail bridge began in 1896, designed by Peter Seton Hay, and construction by Scott Brothers Ltd, a Christchurch based company, began two years after. Back in those times, bridge building lacked the modern engineering technology that is used today, and much of the construction was done via human and animal power. The laying of caissons which formed the foundations of the bridge was notoriously treacherous to workers at the risk of developing the bends due to long exposure of working in pressurised conditions. Construction was completed on 18 July 1901. [5] The original road/rail bridge was opened on 10 October 1902. Construction took three years at the cost of £22,500. [6] A further £118 was spent to add a wind break to protect trains.

State Highway 1 crosses the Awatere River at its current point just north of Seddon. The initial bridge remained the crossing until 2007 when most recently traffic signals were added to either direction to control vehicles on the platform, which was only wide enough for one lane of traffic. A new $15 million two-lane road bridge was constructed with the railway being the sole use of the original bridge. The new road bridge opened to traffic in December 2008 and was officially opened on 31 January 2009. [7] The vehicle deck on the original bridge was decommissioned as it was deemed too expensive to retain its use for pedestrians and cyclists. [8]

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  1. "1000 Māori place names". New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 6 August 2019.
  2. "ArcGIS Web Application". Retrieved 19 August 2021.
  3. "Population estimate tables - NZ.Stat". Statistics New Zealand . Retrieved 22 October 2021.
  4. 1 2 "Statistical area 1 dataset for 2018 Census". Statistics New Zealand. March 2020. Awatere (307000). 2018 Census place summary: Awatere
  5. Hanson, Roger (7 June 2016). "Awatere River bridge brought nose bleeds, black outs and risk of 'the bends'". Stuff. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
  6. "Awatere Road Rail Bridge 1902 to 2007". Marlborough Museums. Archived from the original on 10 April 2017. Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  7. "New Awatere Bridge opens today". Stuff. 31 January 2009. Retrieved 17 October 2021.
  8. "Awatere Road Rail Bridge". Marlborough Online. 10 November 2020. Retrieved 17 October 2021.