The Amuri Basin is a large inland comparatively flat basin formed by the outwash gravels of the Waiau and Hurunui Rivers between the Southern Alps and the Lowry Range in North Canterbury, New Zealand. The Amuri Basin is home to approximately 1647 people who live in and around the small towns of Culverden, Rotherham and Waiau.
The Amuri Irrigation Company Limited (AIC) takes water from the Waiau River and the Hurunui River. These are the largest rivers in the Hurunui District. The Waiau River feeds the Waiau and Waiareka schemes via two intakes and the Hurunui River feeds the Balmoral scheme.
The Waiau River has a total catchment of 3,310km² and is the second largest in North Canterbury (1,980km² of that catchment is above the AIC Waiau scheme intake). The river rises in the Spenser Mountains and flows eastward to the Pacific Ocean. The upper reaches of the catchment is dominated by native vegetation, and the middle and lower reaches (particularly in the Amuri Basin) is dominated by beef and sheep finishing, cropping and dairy farming.
For Ngāti Kuri, the Waiau-uha (the Waiau River) is connected through whakapapa to Waiau-toa (the Clarence River). The Waiau river in legend is the female spirit of the inland mountains and the Waiau-toa is the male. Moving from the Spenser Mountains and Miromiro (Jollies Pass) the Waiau meets the Waiau-toa then the waters become separated. As the Waiau-uha laments the parting, her tears fall as warm rain to melt alpine snows swelling both rivers to massive proportions. The water flows from the Waiau River is an important factor in the ecological health and biodiversity of the river and coastal resources.
The Hurunui River is one of high ecological and environmental significance and is prized by fisherman and nature lovers alike. It is probably the most diverse of Canterbury’s large rivers with both snow and lake sources of flow. There are two main branches; the north branch which is sourced predominantly from Lake Sumner and the south branch which flows from the Southern Alps at Harpers Pass. It is 150km long and has a total catchment of 2,671km²with 1,070km² of that catchment area of above the AIC irrigation intake.
The Hurunui and its numerous tributaries flow through alpine regions, hill country and lowland plains and encompasses a diversity of physical features such as braided alluvial flats, steep gorge sections and intermontane Basins such as the Amuri. The Hurunui is considered a river of high conservation value and is noted for its trout and salmon fishery value. The river is also used extensively for other recreational activities such as kayaking, jet boating and swimming. A diversity of land uses are represented with the upper catchment largely pristine beech forest and low intensity pastoral hill farming. Whereas the middle catchment is predominantly grazed pasture and woody native vegetation. The Amuri Basin contains sheep, beef and dairy farming as well as plantation forestry.
The takiwā (geographical interests) of two Ngāi Tahu hapu (sub tribes) straddle the Hurunui and Waiau river catchments. The Hurunui River once provided an important mahingā kai resource for Ngāi Tahu. The river was particularly known for its tuna (eel) and inaka (whitebait). Nohoanga (settlements) were located at points along the length of the Hurunui river with some wāhi tapu located near the mouth. There is a statutory acknowledgement on both the Hurunui River and Hoka Kura (Lake Sumner).