In 1991 the New Zealand Department of Conservation implemented Project River Recovery (PRR) to restore braided, gravel-bed riverine and wetland habitats in the Upper Waitaki Basin on the South Island. These are critical habitats for wading and shore birds, including threatened species, but have been degraded by hydroelectric power development. This paper evaluates the effectiveness of PRR after more than 10 years with regard to key issues, effective methods, and lessons learned. Few restoration programs explicitly include evaluation of effectiveness or criteria for success, thereby limiting knowledge transfer and benefits to new or ongoing projects. This evaluation is based on site visits, interviews with program staff, review of PRR documents, comparisons with international restoration programs and recommendations, and a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis. Primary components include pest plant and animal control, wetland construction and enhancement, research and monitoring, and public awareness. The program has elements common to many other restoration programs, including strategic planning and annual reporting. Its strengths include well-defined goals, stakeholder collaboration, and successful integration of science with restoration as part of adaptive management. PRR could benefit from improved understanding of physical and watershed characteristics, expansion of goals at multiple scales, additional collaboration with other organizations, and knowledge transfer. Threats include weed invasions and increased recreational and land-use impacts. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.