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Amongst Giants

AMONGST GIANTS

Ancient natives stand testament to history in northern Manawatū
A northern Manawatū community has enhanced the vision of early settlers who saved about 52 hectares (130 acres) of pristine native virgin bush in the small rural settlement of Rangiwahia, providing locals and visitors an opportunity to step back in time and experience the bush that once covered much of central North Island. The Rangiwahia Scenic Reserve is an ancient podocarp forest, home to many native tree species. Among them are rimu, miro, matai, black and white maire, kahikatea, hinau, totara, rewarewa, kamahi, northern rata, and red and black beech. There are five varieties of tree ferns, an understory of smaller trees and shrubs and an extensive variety of ferns. The bush is accessible by two pest-control tracks, which can be walked by the public.
Local farmers and community members Steve and Mary Bielski, along with others, including Anne Elliot, from Kimbolton, have spent thousands of hours caring for the bush. They’ve eradicated pests and weeds, developed tracks, and labelled more than 140 trees, under story trees and tree ferns to make the walks educational for visitors. “The early settlers had the vision and wisdom to set aside this valley and leave the bush untouched because they considered it to be an ideal water catchment for the growing village,” says Steve, whose family have lived and farmed in Rangiwahia for four generations. Many locals had not considered the untouched potential of the bush until early 2015 when the Department of Conservation (DOC) and the Manawatū District Council worked with its local community to realise their vision-plan for the future and support the opening of as sets for the benefit of residents and visitors. It was at this point the scenic reserve became a focus of this work.
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“None of us really knew what we had in this beautiful 130-acre native forest,” recalls Steve, who is a keen hunter, tramper and nature enthusiast. He says the reserve is unlike anywhere else. “I’ve been in a lot of forests in New Zealand and this would have to be the most diverse and beautiful forest I've ever been in.” Goodbye pests, hello birdsong Steve credits the DOC for allowing them to establish pest-control lines to help eradicate possums, feral cats, hedgehogs, rats, stoats, weasels and fallow deer. Today, the results of this work can be heard through the explosion of birdsong echoing across the valley. Mary says the chorus contributors include tui, pīwakawaka (fantail), riroriro (grey warbler), kererū (woodpigeon), korimako (bellbird), miromiro (tomtit), ruru (morepork), kōtare (kingfisher), pīpīwharauroa (shining cuckoo), waxeye, chaffinch, the eastern rosella (Australian import), magpies, thrushes, blackbirds and the distinctive call of the New Zealand kārearea (falcon). Other unique elements throughout the bush include the different tree species that grow close together. Tree enthusiasts with a keen eye will be able to spot a rimu, mataī and miro growing within metres of each other, or a rimu, black maire or mataī, when usually it is the same species that will grow in close proximity in a community. “We are so proud of this bush,” Steve says. “The community is right behind us. We have the time and experience to carry out this work. I know a lot of farmers don’t have the time but they are supporting, helping and encouraging us.” The couple says they are motivated to leave this bush in pristine condition for future generations to enjoy. “We have a house and a farm. Once it’s sold, you can never get back to it,” Steve says. “But this bush belongs to New Zealanders. The future belongs to our kids and grandkids and everyone can come along to this bush. You don’t need any permission and it is not land-locked, you just come through and enjoy it. That’s the magic of it, it is forever.” Hundreds of nature lovers from around the world have written in the visitors’ book providing testimony to the reserve. Entries include “So nice in the rain. The long track is beautiful. Lovely big tree ferns. Truly breathtaking”,“ Wonderful show-case of New Zealand trees”, “A tree hugger’s delight” and “Well-marked track. Awesome trees – loved it”.
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Manawatū stories >>

Dive in and have a taste of what our region’s about!
EXPERIENCE Manawatū Filter
  • All
  • See & Do
  • Work-Life Balance
  • Taste
  • Whānau
  • Business & Innovation
  • Walking & Cycling
  • Itineraries
  • Shopping
  • Motorhoming
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