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Wairoa Gorge land gifted to New Zealand

Wairoa Gorge mountain bike park. Photo: Sven Martin

Land in Wairoa Gorge in Nelson Tasman that contains forest of high ecological value and an internationally renowned mountain bike park has been gifted to the people of New Zealand.

The 860 hectares of land has been gifted by RHL NZ Ltd, a company owned by international investor Ken Dart, and it has transferred over to the Department of Conservation.

The Nelson Mountain Bike Club will continue to operate the mountain bike park as it has done for the past three years under a 40-year lease that has transferred with the land.

A Wairoa Charitable Trust is being appointed to control and manage the land which has become a recreation reserve. The trust together with the Nelson Mountain Bike Club will manage the reserve.

Department of Conservation Northern South Island Operations Director Roy Grose thanked RHL for its generous donation of the land that enables its protection under public ownership.

“This Wairoa Gorge land has impressive natural and recreational features. The land is mostly surrounded by Mt Richmond Forest Park. About 560 hectares of the land is covered in native forest with almost 390 hectares of that assessed as having high regional ecological significance.

“The mountain bike park, hand-built to international standards, is highly valued by New Zealanders and overseas visitors, many of whom come to New Zealand specifically to ride its tracks. It is a valuable natural and recreational asset for the Nelson Tasman region.

“The arrangements for management of the land mean people can continue to enjoy its excellent mountain biking and its beautiful natural environment.”

Ray Griffin, the RHL director representing Ken Dart at the formal handover of the land to the Department of Conservation, said, “Ken Dart’s love of nature and passion for mountain biking first brought RHL to the Wairoa Gorge in 2010.

“We recognized a unique opportunity to combine conservation of the natural landscape with low-impact recreational use to create something special. We committed to developing a world-class mountain bike park which was hand-built by the best trail builders in New Zealand over a period of five years.

“Throughout our ownership, RHL has prioritized being a good steward of the land entrusted to us and we have enjoyed an excellent collaborative relationship with DOC. We built trails in accordance with international best practices for water management and minimizing environmental impact, and implemented annual programmes of native replanting and pest control.

“Since the trail construction was completed, RHL has sought to put viable long-term arrangements in place to allow the park to be more accessible to mountain bikers and nature lovers in perpetuity. In DOC, the Nelson Mountain Bike Club and the Wairoa Charitable Trust, RHL believes it has found safe hands and responsible guardians to see that public access realized today and for generations to come.”

“Wairoa Gorge is renowned as one of the best places in the world to ride a mountain bike - its natural beauty, accessibility and the incredible trail network that has been created there by the owners, is unique and very special,” said Paul Jennings spokesperson for the Nelson Mountain Bike Club.

“Nelson Mountain Bike Club has had the pleasure of working with the owners of Wairoa Gorge over the past three years to enable access for mountain bikers and we are very excited to be given the opportunity to continue that work alongside DOC and the reserve Trust.”

The Left Branch of the Wairoa River runs through the land. Beech-dominated forest covers much of the area with some matai-rich forest and some other podocarp species. Its native forest is of significance in the Nelson Tasman region and the land contains 93 different native plant species, including some that are not common elsewhere on this western side of Mt Richmond Forest Park and its surrounding areas.

Birdlife in the area includes tūī, korimako/bellbird, kereru, kōtare/kingfisher kārearea/native falcon, ruru/morepork, weka, toutouwai/robin and pīpīwharauroa /shining cuckoo.


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