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Trip Report - Northern Wairarapa QEII Covenants

Trip Report – Easter 22 - 24 April 2011:   Northern Wairarapa QEII Covenants


We were very comfortably accommodated in and around Ngaire and Ron Burns’ shearers’ quarters for this weekend of perfect autumn weather in the Waihoki Valley, Tiraumea.   After arriving and setting up in the late morning, we began botanising Jamie and Jeane Fowler’s covenant before lunch.   Under a canopy of mature podocarp-broadleaved forest, we climbed a gently sloping face to view a huge, emergent, northern rata, Metrosideros robusta, possibly 500-700 years old.   Although the covenant was established about 12 years ago and fenced 5-6 years ago, ground-cover species were mostly still at an early stage of development.   However we did note some ungulate browse on saplings in the understorey, and we were told that goats occasionally find their way in, and indeed we did hear one.   Further up, an immense, emergent black maire reared its huge crown above a heavy load of epiphytes.   In this vicinity I picked up a fresh leaf which looked very like Mida salicifolia, maire taiki / willow-leaved maire, and though I could not distinguish mida in the canopy, I was able to confirm it later in a good light, remembering that the leaf is punctulate.   This was the only occurrence of mida during our visit, so it was a lucky find.


The Liverton family settled in the Waihoki Valley in 1868 and most of the covenantors are related.   In this covenant, between the road and the river, stands an impressive masonry memorial, commemorating family members who have passed on.   High above it, lean some of the largest kowhai most of us had ever seen.   We made several forays into this covenant and also along the river bank.   The last foray was into an impressive stand of tawa, beyond which was a small wetland.

We lunched at the site of the former Waihoki Valley School, and then descended a farm track to the river.   Sidling on the true right, we paused to study a feldspathic sandstone formation over which the stream tumbled, then crossed a tributary, and climbed steeply to reach the top of this second covenant of the day.   It appeared that a shelter-belt of Tasmanian blackwood, a species which naturalises readily, had been planted here, as we saw again later on Route 52.   We then traversed farmland above mature tawa forest, and passed through some severely slumped terrain, perhaps resulting from the large earthquake in the 1930s.   After reaching a farm track, we descended into impressive podocarp / tawa forest where we saw large kahikatea, matai, totara and miro, with an understorey beginning to recover from browsing.


We crossed pasture and descended a steep farm track into totara forest.   Here we identified the tree fern, Dicksonia fibrosa, the only one of this species seen during the field trip.   We checked divaricating shrubs for mistletoes, without success, then crossed to the true right of the river.   We were impressed to see that large pines in the covenant had been poisoned, or felled.   We pushed through manuka shrubland, noting that broad-leaved species are growing up below the canopy, and in places, a dense ground-cover of ferns was developing.

We congratulate all the Waihoki covenant owners for their foresight in reserving these significant examples of remaining indigenous forest, and for offering us the privilege of botanising them.   When we have finalised the plant lists for the four covenants traversed, we will send them to the owners, and if they wish, to the QEII National Trust.

We thank Ngaire Burns for her hospitality, obtaining permission for us to visit covenants, and for taking two of us on a quick tour of access points to the covenants we were to visit.   We also thank John Burns for being our contact while Ngaire and Ron were away.

Participants :   Gavin Dench, Bryan Halliday, Chris Horne, Sheena and Stuart Hudson, Brenda Johnston, Rodney Lewington, Pat McLean, Barbara Mitcalfe (scribe), Darea Sherratt, Sunita Singh.


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