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The Opihi River flows through south Canterbury, in New Zealand's South Island. It has been identified as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International because it supports breeding colonies of the endangered black-billed gull.[1]


The river flows south-east for 75 kilometres (47 mi), reaching the Pacific Ocean 10 kilometres (6 mi) north of Timaru. The town of Fairlie lies on the river's banks.


The banks of the river around the settlement of Waitohi were possibly the site of the first powered heavier-than-air flight on March 31, 1903, when pioneer aviator Richard Pearse is reputed to have got his home-made machine airborne several months before the Wright Brothers.

Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) were introduced from California in the 1900s and persist today.[2]

In 2000 Environment Canterbury approved the Opihi River Regional Plan for sustainable management of the resources of the river.[3]


  1. ^ "Opihi River". BirdLife data zone: Important Bird Areas. BirdLife International. 2012. Retrieved 15 November 2012.
  2. ^ McDowall, R. M. (1990) New Zealand freshwater fishes: a natural history and guide. Heinemann-Reed, Auckland, 553 p.
  3. ^ Environment Canterbury (2000). Opihi River Regional Plan Report R00/16. Environment Canterbury. ISBN 1-86937-392-8.

Coordinates: 44°17′S 171°21′E / 44.283°S 171.350°E / -44.283; 171.350