This important wildlife refuge effectively treasures its unique environments, embraces its rural character and incorporates built elements which pay homage to its past, all while maximising public enjoyment.
Puhinui Reserve is on the edge of the Manukau Harbour and contains significant conservation, heritage and amenity values. The reserve forms part of the extensive Matukuturua volcanic field, and is linked with pre-European settlements centred on Wiri Mountain and Matukutura (McLaughlins Mountain).
The reserve protects a variety of ecosystems and habitats, including extensive shell banks, intertidal mudflats, mangroves and extensive shoreline salt marsh. Part of the area is a wildlife refuge. Thousands of international migratory birds and New Zealand endemic waders feed on the sand flats and use the shellbanks as a high tide roost. The saltmarsh is impounded behind the shellbanks and is one of the biggest and least disturbed areas of saltmarsh remaining in the Manukau Harbour.
Threatened banded rail and fernbird inhabit the saltmarsh, and the regionally threatened herb Nertera scapanioides and nationally threatened Maori musk Mimulus repens have been reported here.
There are rare vegetation ecotones between the shellbank vegetation, the saltmarsh vegetation and into the kanuka forest on the shore, with kahikatea and rimu present. In the shelter of the Puhinui, Pukaki, and Waokauri Creeks are significant areas of mangroves. Those in the Puhinui Creek are some of the oldest mangroves in the harbour and have salt meadows, with batchelor's button on the fringes in places.