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How many rivers are in New Zealand?

One of the questions I got asked in a recent interview, broadcast on RadioLIVE's Outdoors Hour, was "So, do you know how many rivers there are in New Zealand?" That had me stumped - to be honest, I am not sure I have even come across a figure in all my research. On investigation, I found to my relief that I wasn't as silly as I felt - even Wikipedia doesn't offer a number - just a very long list!

By my calculation, there are over 1,000 on the list - possibly about 1,200. Which is obviously quite a few. But as I explained too in the interview, sometimes the naming of a waterway is a pretty arbitrary business - how big does it need to be called a river rather than a stream or a creek? There is no scientific threshold for this (as far as I am aware) and it would be pretty complicated if there were, because some rivers (especially those subject to highly variable rainfall - often the case in New Zealand) will sometimes be a trickle and sometimes a torrent.

Anyway, perhaps more intriguing than the number of rivers is the names some of these waterways have. One that caught my eye was Anti Crow River, a tributary to the Waimakariri River. Evidently, this was not so named because someone had a deep-seated vendetta against crows, but rather because it runs through the valley opposite the Crow River. I suspect there are many other interesting stories behind the nomenclature of our waterways.

Image: The Anti Crow River in Arthur's Pass was not so named because someone found crows scary.

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