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Wellington’s special conservation gems

28 August 2008

Meet the locals – Wellington’s special conservation gems

Putangirua Pinnacles 09: , Putangirua Pinnacles, Eastern Wairarapa. Photo: Joe Hansen/Department of Conservation


Wellingtonians are encouraged to ‘meet the locals’ during Conservation Week (September 7 to 14) – to get better acquainted with the treasure trove of natural and historic heritage that is close at hand.

In reserves, and regional and forest parks within the region you can see or hear endangered native animals; spot some of New Zealand’s rarest plants, explore historic buildings and sites, savour stunning views, marvel at striking landscapes, stay at a hut or campsite, undertake a variety of outdoor pursuits, and see conservation in action – Department of Conservation staff and volunteers restoring and protecting our natural heritage.

Conservation Week is also a chance to celebrate the opening of Wellington’s Taputeranga Marine Reserve on Wellington’s south coast. An open day at Island Bay on September 7 is an opportunity to meet the people involved with the reserve and find out why this area has been protected. It’s one of two marine reserves in the Wellington region. The Kapiti Marine Reserve protects the marine environment next to Kapiti Island - an internationally-renowned reserve where some of New Zealand’s most threatened native wildlife reside without fear of introduced predators.

Wellington region ‘locals’ include some unusual geological features – beaches raised by earthquakes at Turakirae; lakes formed at Pencarrow when earthquakes raised the beach ridges, causing the valleys to fill with water; and Kupe’s Sail, a rock formation at Palliser Bay, where you can also find the Putangirua Pinnacles - spectacular earth pillars formed over time by the erosive forces of rain and floods.

A short ferry trip from Wellington City centre or Eastbourne will take you to Matiu/Somes Island in Wellington Harbour, where you can find relics from both world wars, historic quarantine buildings, a lighthouse, and native animals - including tuatara, giant weta, lizards, and kakariki - living the good life in a growing forest planted by volunteers.

The recently opened Te Arapiki o Tawhaki track into the Pukaha Mount Bruce visitor centre in the northern Wairarapa offers the chance to get up close and personal with kaka and hear the melodic tune of kokako. Pest control is enabling these reintroduced species to breed in the wild. The track takes visitors to a lookout offering stunning views of the Tararua ranges and surrounding areas.

Kiwi have also been reintroduced into the Rimutaka Forest Park, in a project being undertaken by the Rimutaka Forest Park Trust with support from DOC.

Short walks and tramps are on offer in the Rimutaka and Tararua Forest Parks, where you can stay in huts, lodges and campsites, or enjoy a family picnic. Walking tracks around lakes and remnant native forests allow an experience of what life was like before European settlement.

Heritage treasures include the Rimutaka Rail Trail, a mountain biking and walking track developed along the route of the Rimutaka Incline, where Fell engines once carried train passengers up and down the steepest part of the railway route between Wellington and the Wairarapa. Old Government Building and Turnbull House in Wellington City, and a historic sawmill site in the Tararua Forest Park give an insight into colonial politics, architecture and industry.

Sawmill relics at Otaki Forks. Photo: Richard Nester/DOC.


You can improve your own and the community’s health and well being – by participating in conservation projects, such as habitat restoration and pest control. The many retired people who have volunteered their services to the cause of conservation will vouch for the therapeutic value of such work.

Close at hand, the outdoors can be our stress-release, our gym, our shared family experiences and our entertainment. It’s our shared backyard for all of us to use.

Visit the DOC website: or check out your local DOC visitor centre to find out how to get out into our unique natural environment.

To find out what local events are running during Conservation Week visit:

Information about parks and reserves in the Wellington region can also be found on the Greater Wellington website: and the website of your local council.


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