Boyd, F. (2010 ). A recreational and social history of the Avon-Heathcote Estuary.
Prepared for Environment Canterbury (ECan) and the Avon-Heathcote Estuary Ihutai Trust, this report is a summary of the recreational and social history of the Avon-Heathcote Ihutai estuary, from precolonial Māori to the modern day in 2010.
According to the report, Te Ihutai was formed around 450 years ago when sand from the Rakahuri Ashley and Waimakariri rivers built up Southshore Spit, closing off an estuarine water body from Pegasus Bay. Connected to the waterways of Canterbury and home to a wide range of edible shellfish, birds and plants, the estuary became a key seasonal mahinga kai, trading, and connective site for Waitaha, Ngāti Māmoe, and, later, Ngāi Tahu. Today, the hapū, Ngāi Tūāhuriri, are the kaitiaki of the estuary. When European settlers arrived, the estuary and its rivers quickly became an important transport route, allowing industry to rapidly grow. However, industrial and household runoff, effluent, and discharge draining into the estuary via the Avon and Heathcote rivers left the water highly polluted from as early as the 1860s, ending the estuary’s value as a mahinga kai source.
Today Te Ihutai remains in poor cultural and environmental condition. However, it is still utilised by Ōtautahi residents for a range of recreational activities, including yachting, swimming, fishing, wind surfing, kayaking, birdwatching, and walking. The damage inflicted in the 19th and 20th centuries is slowly beginning to be reversed via public awareness of its unique ecosystems and protection and enhancement commitments from councils and community groups. After wastewater discharge finally ending in the 21st century, the report concluded that estuary’s future will depend on maintaining balance between conservation and recreation.