The Central Waikato zone consists of the Waikato River catchment between Karapiro Dam and Ngaruawahiam and has an area of 64,000 hectares.
The zone contains two dominant features: the Waikato River main channel and the urban area that makes up the city of Hamilton. There are a number of smaller towns and communities whose primary function is servicing the agriculture industry, including Cambridge, Ngaruawahia and Ohaupo.
Agriculture (dairy and dry stock farming) is the dominant economic activity. There are also significant industrial activities including power generation, coal mining and quarrying.
A number of elements of nationally important infrastructure traverse through the zone including State Highways 1, 1B, 3, 26 and 39, the North Island Main Trunk Railway, and national electricity grid transmission lines.
Geologically the zone is diverse, consisting of volcanic materials including tephra, alluvial and unconsolidated sediments, peat, sandstone/mudstone, and greywacke or argillite.
The Coromandel zone covers most of the Coromandel Peninsula, and has a total area of approximately 193,000ha.
The zone includes all land within the Thames Coromandel District Council boundary, excluding those catchments that are incorporated within the Waihou-Piako Zone, including the Kauaeranga, Tararu and catchments flowing into Thames town. It also includes part of the Hauraki District Council area between Whangamata and Waihi.
The zone is dominated by the Coromandel Range which is volcanic in origin, and has numerous short, steep catchments that are vulnerable to flash flooding. The zone is also susceptible to tropical storms, and has the highest annual average rainfall of any zone within the region - often over 3,000mm, and sometimes in excess of 4,500mm.
The Coromandel Zone has an estimated 3,900 kilometres of rivers and streams (the Waikato region has more than 45,000 kilometres) and more than 500 kilometres of coastline. Around a third of the area, predominantly the ranges, is Department of Conservation estate.
The Lower Waikato zone consists of the Waikato River catchment between Ngaruawahia and the Tasman Sea, and covers an area of 283,757 hectares.
The dominant feature of the zone is the Waikato River and its associated lakes and wetlands. At the upstream end of the zone (Ngaruawahia) the river joins with the Waipā River and becomes wider and more slowly flowing as it exits from its more incised upstream channel. Similarly the flood plain of the river becomes flat and wide with a large percentage of the flood plain land drained (from wetland state) for agricultural production.
Agriculture (dairy and dry stock farming) is the dominant economic activity however there are also significant industrial activities including power generation, coal mining, quarrying and sand mining. A number of elements of nationally important infrastructure traverse through the zone, including State Highway 1, 1B, 2, 22 and 39, the North Island Main Trunk Railway, the national electricity grid transmission lines and the main natural gas pipeline to Auckland.
The Upper Waikato zone stretches from the Kaingaroa Plateau in the east to the Pureora and Rangitoto ranges in the west.
The zone covers 436,000 hectares and includes the hydro lakes of Aratiatia, Ohakuri, Atiamuri, Whakamaru, Maraetai, Waipapa, Arapuni and Karapiro. It also includes a number of natural lakes, the steep land of the Paeroa Range, Horohoro Bluffs and the northern Hauhungaroa Range.
Geologically the zone is volcanic in nature with 68 per cent being comprised of Taupō pumice. The remainder is made up of other volcanic materials, including tephra and muds from the Rotorua Volcanic Centre. Much of the zone is characterised by young, soft and loose materials prone to erosion.
Economic drivers for the zone are forestry, agriculture, energy production (hydroelectricity and geothermal) and the visitor industry. Forestry and pastoral farming are the predominant land uses but in recent years there has been a marked increase in dairy conversions and intensification. The zone is developing as an outdoor adventure destination in its own right, with features such as Pureora Forest Park, Maungatautari Ecological Island and the Waikato River Trails.
The zone is within the rohe of Waikato-Tainui (Ngati Koroki Kahukura), Raukawa, the Te Arawa River Iwi Affiliates, and Tūwharetoa.
The Waihou Piako zone includes the catchments of the Miranda Coast up as far as Kaiaua, the Waitakaruru River, the Piako River, the Waihou River, the Kauaeranga River, the Thames streams and the Tararu Stream. It includes all of the land that drains into the Firth of Thames from Kaiaua in the west to Tararu in the east, the major portion of which is the Hauraki Plains and Thames Valley catchments.
The zone has a number of values that are considered important to its community, as well as to the wider Waikato regional community. These include the Waihou River system, the native forests of the Coromandel and Kaimai and Mamaku ranges, the Kopuatai Peat Dome, which is home to a number of rare plants and animals, and the Firth of Thames foreshore, which provides important habitat for migratory and resident seabirds.
The upper catchments of the Coromandel, Kaimai and Mamaku ranges remain in indigenous vegetation, much of it under the management of the Department of Conservation, while the upper catchment of the Hapuakohe Range in the west is mostly planted in exotic Radiata pine forest.
Development has converted most of the catchment to pasture (predominantly dairy farming) and in the lower reaches this is heavily dependent on flood protection.
The zone also has a number of elements that have special significance to tangata whenua, including the spiritual significance of the Waihou and Piako river systems, mahinga kai, waahi tapu sites and urupa.
The West Coast zone covers a large geographic area of 425,835 hectares, stretching from Port Waikato in the north, to Mokau River in the south, and as far inland as Benneydale. Its rivers and streams drain a large number of catchments to the Tasman Sea.
The zone encompasses three district councils: Waitomo, Ōtorohanga and Waikato. Key settlements include Aotea, Aria, Awakino, Benneydale, Kawhia, Marokopa, Mokau, Piopio, and Raglan.
The zone contains a range of high value natural habitats, landscapes and ecosystems that make the West Coast unique: coastal landforms, harbours and river mouths, dune lakes, native bush and karst landscapes. A range of threatened plants and animals rely upon the special environmental conditions found in these natural areas.
The West Coast has a rich cultural heritage and has been a stronghold for Māori for many generations. Key iwi within the West Coast zone include Waikato-Tainui, Maniapoto and Ngāti Tama in the south.
The West Coast zone is very sparsely populated and this is in part as a result of its rugged hill country and harbour topography. The zone still contains large tracts of undeveloped land.
Agricultural land use on the West Coast generally remains of low intensity, and sheep and beef farming predominates. It also has the highest proportion of highly erosion-prone farmland in the region.
The Waipā zone forms a part of the Waikato River catchment situated along the western side of the catchment, and covers an area of 306,569 hectares.
The zone is dominated by the Waipā River channel and associated rivers, streams and lakes. The Waipā River is the single largest tributary to the Waikato River, and the only part of the Waikato catchment area that is not unduly affected by hydroelectric power generation activities.
The volcanic cones of Pirongia and Maungatautari dominate the landscape from west to east. Much of the land within the zone has been covered by limestone and sandstone, forming bluffs and a karst landscape. The predominant geology of the area is volcanic material.
The Waipā zone contains numerous peat lakes, the largest of which are Lake Ngaroto and Lake Rotokauri. The peat lakes within the zone are valued for their unique genetic diversity, scientific interest and recreational opportunities. They are also valued for their cultural and spiritual values.
The Waipā zone is a biodiversity stronghold, with a variety of ecosystems, including rivers and streams, lakes, terrestrial, wetlands, and karst. These ecosystems provide critical habitats for indigenous fauna, flora and micro organisms.
The Waipā zone spans the boundaries of four district councils – Waikato, Waipā, Otorohanga and Waitomo. While there are no major cities within the zone, the zone has four primary population centres: Te Awamutu, Te Kūiti, Ōtorohanga and Pirongia.
The main economic activities are centred on primary production – particularly dairy farming.