The Whakatipu Reforestation Trust manage five keystone planting sites that have been strategically chosen to cover different ecosystems, in close proximity to various Whakatipu communities.
Each of our sites has the capacity to be planted for at least the next 10 years at current operational levels, massively increasing the levels of native habitat and biodiversity in the area.
Habitat: Olearia woodland / Riparian
Before human arrival, Bush Creek flowed down to join the Arrow River where Arrowtown is now situated. The erosion prone underlying schist created large amounts of stone which was deposited next to Bush Creek and Arrow River creating stony river flats. Vegetation remnants higher up the valley are a diverse mixture of beech tree species and sub-canopy shade tolerant shrubs in the steeper gorge. The cold frost flats of Bush Creek where the creek now flows past the town were likely covered in small leaf Olearia (tree daisy) woodland, with mountain beech and Halls totara forest on the slopes above the town.
The search for gold in the 1860s saw all of the lower reaches of Bush Creek extensively mined out, with the loss of native species and any topsoil that had accumulated. The vision of the Trust is to reinstate this small-leafed Olearia woodland with a range of diverse species that will provide habitat for birds, lizards, and invertebrates. The flood prone creek edge will be replanted with riparian species capable of withstanding periodic floods and letting people enjoy the creek as it once was.
Whitechapel Reserve (Arrow Junction)
Habitat: Kowhai Woodland
Before humans arrived the land around the Arrow River would have been cloaked in a mixture of beech forest and grey shrubland with mixed stands of kōwhai. Moa and other native birds would have fed on the leaves and berries of the shrublands, and hid from aerial predators like the Haast’s eagle in the forest. Following human arrivals large parts of the basin were cleared with fire and sown with exotic grasses.
Kōwhai woodlands were once a dominant ecosystem in Central Otago. Now only a handful of individual trees survive on rocky outcrops or beside streams where they were protected from land-clearing fires. The vision at Whitechapel is to turn a large part of the historic reserve back into kōwhai woodland, with flocks of tūī and bellbirds/korimako feeding on kōwhai nectar in spring, and New Zealand falcons/kārearea flying overhead.
Lake Hayes South
Habitat: Swamp Wetland
One thousand years ago Lake Hayes would have been filled with a rich diversity of native trees suited to growing in a swampy environment. The rise and fall of the lake would have provided ideal conditions for wetland plants, ranging in size from small sedges to New Zealand’s native conifers, the towering kahikatea and majestic matai. These trees would have provided a haven for forest birds like kererū/wood pigeon, and the wetlands a source of food and habitat for now rare ground-dwelling species such as rails and fernbirds.
The extensive loss of wetlands throughout the country has resulted in a degradation of our waterways and loss of habitat for many native species. The vision for this site is to re-establish an ecosystem that is now rare, with a resulting increase in native species that would have once lived here. Trees, such as kahikatea, will grow alongside a mix of other wetland species. As these grow up and establish a new forest, the invasive willows will be gradually removed, allowing native wildlife to thrive into the future.
Slope Hill Road
Habitat: Riparian / Grey Shrubland
Prior to human arrival in New Zealand, the Lake Hayes catchment would have been cloaked in a variety of small trees and shrubs well adapted to the site. The colder frosty conditions of the valley floor would have prevented native beech forest from establishing. Right along the stream edge, the riparian zone would have contained a mixture of grasses, sedges, and reeds, providing a source of habitat and food for a mix of waterfowl and insectivorous birds, like the pīwakawaka/fantail.
Many of the native species that once grew in the lowland part of the basin have been lost to farming practices and invasive weeds. The resulting shift in natural processes has led to a decline in water quality at Lake Hayes and the loss of native wildlife. The vision of this site is to replant the stream edge with a diversity of native species to help improve water quality and provide a source of food and shelter for native waterfowl. Beyond the edges of the riparian zone, grey shrubland species will be planted to help restore a part of the basin to how it once was.
Habitat: Grey Shrubland and Beech Forest
Following the last glacial retreat 10,000 years ago, Feehly Hill would have subsequently been cloaked with mountain beech forest on the wetter south face, and grey shrubland with mixed stands of kowhai on the exposed and rocky north face. Moa and other native birds would have fed on the leaves and berries of these shrublands, while the forest would have been habitat for many other species. Following the arrival of humans, large parts of the basin were cleared with fire, and sown with exotic grasses, and Feehly Hill was grazed with stock.
Burning and farming practices have significantly altered Feehly Hill, and is now largely covered in exotic weeds. The vision of the trust is to follow Barry Lawrence’s legacy and replant native species that once grew here. This includes kowhai and other grey shrubland plants on the sunny north faces to provide a source of food for our lizards and birds, and native mountain beech forest on the colder, wetter south face of the hill. In time, Feehly Hill will once again resound with the sound of native birdlife.
Peace Park (Frankton Foreshore)
Habitat: Lake Shore
As Lake Whakatipu formed following the melting of the glaciers, the slopes above the lake became covered with native vegetation all the way down to the water edge. Trees, many of which could not survive the more challenging frosty conditions of the inland part of the basin, would have been found growing in the more moderate climate by the lake. A diverse range of trees and shrubs including broadleaf, cabbage tree, and wineberry would have provided a source of food and habitat for native birds and insects. Kōwhai and rātā would have provided vibrant flowers and a source of nectar in the spring and summer.
Much of the original vegetation around the lake has been lost, and replaced with invasive weeds such as crack willow. The vision of this site is to bring back native trees and shrubs that would have grown along the lake edge; now found only in small pockets in places like Bob’s Cove and Pigeon Island. A diversity of native trees will provide future sources of food and habitat for all types of New Zealand birds, such as kererū/wood pigeon and our native nectar feeds, the tui and korimako/bellbird.
Earnslaw Slipway (Kelvin Heights)
Habitat: Lake Shore
Prior to human disturbance, the peninsula would have likely been cloaked in a thick layer of forest and shrubland. Warmed by the large body of Lake Whakatipu, the lake edge would have encouraged a mix of frost tender trees and shrubs. The red flowering southern rata and golden kowhai would have rooted into the gravelly soils, and where better soil could be found a mix of other native broadleaf trees would have grown. Lancewoods, five finger, and wineberry would have been cloaked in native clematis with an understory of shrubs. The diverse range of plants was subsequently cleared by fire and sown in grass. Later exotic conifers were planted to handle the now exposed conditions.
The early clearing of the peninsula has left little in the way of native biodiversity. The vision of this site is to bring back some of the now locally rare native trees and shrubs that would have grown along the lake, and provide a habitat for our native fauna. A diversity of native trees will provide future sources of food and habitat for all types of New Zealand birds, insects and lizards. In time, more plantings on the Kelvin Peninsula and towards the Remarkables will help bring many of these species back.
Planting Sites Map
GREEN LEAF = Keystone Planting Sites / BRONZE LEAF = Partner Planting Sites
A huge thank you to our planting supporters and of course to our many committed and enthusiastic volunteers who contribute to the planting and maintenance of our sites.
Alpine Retreat Community
A J Hacket Bungy – Kawarau Bridge Team
Friends of Tuckers Beach
Glenorchy Community Association
Gibbston Community Association
KAPOW – Arthurs Point Community
Kelvin Heights Peninsular Community Association
Department of Conservation – Project Gold
Queenstown Climbing Club
Queenstown Mountain Bike Club
Remarkables Primary School
Shotover Primary School