The Largest Lakes In New Zealand By Surface Area

Lake Taupo is the largest lake in New Zealand.
Lake Taupo is the largest lake in New Zealand.

Lake Taupo is the largest lake by surface area in New Zealand and Oceania’s second largest. About 3,820 lakes have been identified in the country often referred to as the land of lakes. The lakes account for nearly 1.3% of the land area. The lakes are useful to communities for fishing, water supply, irrigation, and hydroelectric power generation.

Origin Of New Zealand’s Lakes

The lakes in New Zealand vary distinctly in origin. Approximately 38% of the lakes are formed by glaciers and are located in the South Island. The area where these lakes lie was once covered by ice in the Pleistocene era, an estimated 20,000 years ago. The glaciers carved out depressions on valley floors, and after they had retreated, these depressions were filled with water. The lakes are characterized by great depth and permanence. Examples of these lakes include Manapouri, Te Anau, Tekapo, and Rotoroa. 4% of the lakes are volcanic, and they occupy the North Island. Volcanic activity throughout time has created craters where land has collapsed. These craters now hold water to form some of the most breathtaking lakes in the region. The Green and Blue Lakes are famous volcanic lakes. Other lakes have been formed by dunes, landslides, and coastal barriers. New Zealand is also home to numerous artificial lakes formed by damming water bodies.

The Largest Lakes In New Zealand

Lake Taupo takes the crown as the biggest lake with a surface area of 237.84 square miles. Regarding size, this lake is compared to Singapore. Lake Taupo has a maximum depth of 610 feet and a water volume of 14.15 Cubic miles. The Waikato River is the lakes’s primary outflow. The second largest lake is Te Anau with a surface area of 132.82 square miles. This glacial lake is the biggest lake in the South Island, and it has a maximum depth of 1,368.1 feet. The lake is protected in the Fiordland National Park as well as the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Site. Lake Wakatipu, a glacial lake in South Island, is the third largest lake with a surface are of 111.58 square miles. Lake Wanaka is another large glacial lake with a surface area of 74.13 square miles.

Significance Of Lakes In New Zealand

The lakes in New Zealand boast historical and cultural value, particularly for the indigenous communities. Throughout the centuries, some of the lakes have been at the center of trade, warfare, travel as well as myths, legends, and religion. The shores of Lake Rotoiti, for example, are home to sacred caves and burial grounds. Another example is Lake Taupo, an essential element of the Maori culture. The lakes in the country are popular tourism hotspots due to activities such as watersports, sightseeing, photography, and cycling on the shores. The lakes are also necessary for the production of hydro-electricity.

Threats To The Lakes Of New Zealand

Alien flora and fauna in the lakes continue to threaten and prey on native fish and plant species. An example of introduced species is the catfish. The hornwort weed has been identified as a threat to some lakes since it hampers drainage and irrigation and crowds out indigenous species. Pollution and water extraction are also significant threats to the country’s lakes.

Which Are The Largest Lakes In New Zealand By Surface Area?

RankNameSurface areaRegion
1Lake Taupo616 km2 (238 sq mi)Waikato
2Lake Te Anau344 km2 (133 sq mi)Southland
3Lake Wakatipu291 km2 (112 sq mi)Otago
4Lake Wanaka192 km2 (74 sq mi)Otago
5Lake Ellesmere180 km2 (69 sq mi)Canterbury
6Te Whanga Lagoon180 km2 (69 sq mi)Chatham Island
7Lake Pukaki179 km2 (69 sq mi)Canterbury
8Lake Manapouri142 km2 (55 sq mi)Southland
9Lake Hāwea141 km2 (54 sq mi)Otago
10Lake Tekapo83 km2 (32 sq mi)Canterbury
11Lake Rotorua79 km2 (31 sq mi)Bay of Plenty
12Lake Wairarapa78 km2 (30 sq mi)Wellington
13Lake Benmore75 km2 (29 sq mi)Canterbury/Otago
14Lake Hauroko63 km2 (24 sq mi)Southland
15Lake Ohau63 km2 (24 sq mi)Canterbury
16Lake Waikaremoana54 km2 (21 sq mi)Hawke's Bay
17Lake Coleridge47 km2 (18 sq mi)Cantebury
18Lake Poteriteri43 km2 (17 sq mi)Southland
19Lake Brunner40 km2 (15 sq mi)West Coast
20Lake Tarawera39 km2 (15 sq mi)Bay of Plenty

More in Environment