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Rivers and lakes

Our landscape is relatively narrow (450 kilometres at its widest point) and dominated by mountains, in which many of our rivers originate. Our rivers are relatively short, steep, and fast-flowing, and generally open to a meandering course over lowland floodplains before reaching the sea.

Rivers also feed many lakes – New Zealand has 3,820 lakes larger than one hectare in area. Most lakes were formed through volcanic or glacial activity, or after land barriers were formed, blocking the outlets of waterways. The South Island has 360 glaciers, which carry snow and ice from the many peaks of the Southern Alps (Ministry for the Environment, 2007).