A record breaking spring

2 November 2019

We drive out from Golden Bay to pay a brief visit to Te Waikoropupu Springs. These are the largest freshwater springs in New Zealand, the largest cold water springs in the Southern Hemisphere and contain some of the clearest water ever measured.

Tests in 1993 showed that visibility in the spring water is an amazing 63 metres. This is very close to optically pure water, with clearer water found only beneath Antarctica’s near-frozen Weddell Sea. The water clarity is a result of natural filtering prior to the water’s emergence.

Te Waikoropupu Springs are clearly remarkable. It’s a beautiful sight, and very tranquil. The colours, and the clarity of the water, are stunning. Look carefully at the photos and you can see the water surface rippling slightly, an indication of the water bubbling into the pool from beneath the earth.

This is also an important place for local Maori, who regard it as taonga (treasure) and wāhi tapu, a place held in high cultural and spiritual regard. For this reason, to show respect for cultural values, the spring waters are closed to all forms of contact, including fishing, swimming, diving, wading, boating and drinking the water.

An interpretation panel at Te Waikoropupu Springs bears the words of a Maori waiata (song), with the English translation as follows:

Bubbling waters from the throat of the spring 
Bubbling waters from the throat of the spring
Forever bubbling from the land
Forever bubbling for the health of the people and the spring waters
The spring waters of Täkaka
The tears of the spirit ancestors,
Waters bubbling from the throat of the spring
Waters bubbling from the throat of the spring

Te Waikoropupu Springs is clearly an important place for local Maori. Increasingly, it is also an important habitat for native plants and wildlife. Once largely cleared of vegetation during the goldmining boom, it’s now protected and regenerating naturally. As native vegetation becomes re-established birds can also find a home here, and we’re delighted to catch a glimpse of a Fantail.

We’ve seen Fantails a couple of times already on this trip, always close to water and never sitting still long enough to be photographed. On this occasion Mrs P manages to grab a quick shot before the bird flies off. You can see from the shape way he holds his tail just how he got his name!

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