This north Westland river, with its main branches, drains a 20-mile length of the main alpine divide; it is about 40 miles long. Before leaving the Southern Alps the Hokitika River is joined from the east by the Mungo River, of similar size, and then from the south by the Whitcombe River, which is actually larger than the Hokitika itself. None of these rivers has a low saddle at its head, although the Whitcombe saddle (4,025 ft) from the upper Rakaia was considered as a possible route from Canterbury in gold-rush days. To the west of the Alps the Hokitika River and its eastern tributary, the Kokatahi River have formed the Kowhitirangi-Kokatahi alluvial plain, one of the larger and more fertile plains of Westland. Where the river leaves the plain at Kaniere, 3 miles from the sea, it passes through one of the main alluvial goldfields of the 1860s. At that time the bar at the river mouth, always difficult for ships to negotiate, was the scene of many wrecks; the harbour is no longer used.
by Richard Patrick Suggate, M.A.(OXON.), D.SC.(N.Z.), F.R.S.N.Z., New Zealand Geological Survey, Christchurch.