Site Index
Trip Report - Western Wairarapa

Trip Report – 6-8 April 2012:   Western Wairarapa – map BP34

Glorious weather throughout contributed to our appreciation of two Queen Elizabeth II Open Space Covenants and DOC’s Carter Scenic Reserve.

Day 1: Highden Station, near Masterton

Our hosts on Friday at Highden, 626 Upper Plain Road, were Tom and Helen Holmes whose forebears had farmed there for decades.   Over morning tea on a high terrace above the valley floor, they described how they came to covenant their areas of native forest.   Old, gnarled, remnant hinau trees, wind-tortured into weird shapes, dotted the home paddocks.   After descending to the meandering stream we noted, in passing, how the newly-fenced banks had already begun to show a green fuzz of seedlings, many of them still too tiny for accurate identification.   Under tall titoki and kanuka in the canopy, were some very large barberry which Trevor Thompson, Wellington-Wairarapa QEII Trust representative says will be removed.

Trevor accompanied us as we left the first covenant and climbed to the covenanted wetland nestled inside the recently constructed fence.   Here we admired the lone, 3m Nestegis montana on the outskirts of the previously-grazed area for which we were fortunate to have copies of the plant list compiled by Pat Enright and Tony Silbery in January this year.

Among indigenous additions on this site were an adult Prumnopitys ferruginea, Coprosma grandifolia, Histiopteris incisa, Hypolepis lactea, Lastreopsis velutina (uncommon), Polysticum oculatum, Prasophyllum colensoi agg., Astelia solandri and Potamogeton suboblongus.   Adventive additions were Sambucus nigra, Taraxacum officinale and Potamogeton crispus.

That evening, at Greytown’s Memorial Park Campground, we camped under the large, well-remembered, mistletoe-hung totara and titoki trees, and enjoyed a potluck meal in a kitchen we had all to ourselves.

Day 2: Zabell Farms Ltd covenanted areas

We spent Saturday botanising the extensive covenanted areas on Zabell Farms.   The goal of the Environmental Management Plan for Zabell Farms Ltd is “To maintain and enhance the wetland and bush areas for future generations”.   The plan has four objectives:
1.   Eliminate weeds and prevent them from re-establishing.
2.   Minimise animal pests to allow as many chicks to fledge as possible.   Protect Forest & Bird’s Fensham Reserve’s southern boundary.
3.   Protect habitat for native fauna and flora.
4.   Establish eco-sourced native plants.

The objectives are being implemented by a set of activities specified in the plan.

Overlooking the plains to the east, the homestead is on a commanding site, with a large patio with built-in stone boxes planted with vegetables and herbs.   Welcoming us on the patio, our host Aidan Bichan gave us a thorough briefing on the whole farm.   First we botanised the bush block, down the true left of a small stream, through young, regenerating podocarp / broadleaf forest, then climbed through mixed beech and epacrids, to lunch at the lookout on the covenant’s shared boundary with Fensham Reserve.   The covenant and the reserve, although of separate tenures, are one continuous ecological unit, each complementing and benefitting the other.   From there we descended the Fensham track system, noting the significant developments since we were last there.   We then crossed back onto Zabell Farm, and into the wetland covenant.   This is a newly fenced area of rank pasture grass, sedges such as Carex geminata and Machaerina (=Baumea) species, emergent shrubs and small trees such as Coprosma tenuifolia, and a dense, extensive stand of manuka.   All of these are naturally occurring, as is a colony of the threatened mudfish.

It will be interesting to know how long it will take for predominantly indigenous wetland vegetation to eventually overcome the rank pasture grasses.   Towards sundown, returning to our cars, we traversed a lower part of the Bush Block covenant, a small narrow strip with a grove of enormous, historic totara trees, some of the biggest we had ever seen.

Barbara Mitcalfe

NZ mudfish Neochanna apoda, a kowaro sp. / brown mudfish occurs in the southern half of the North Island, and on the West Coast of the South Island.   The fish is our largest mudfish, growing to 175 mm long.

Chris Hopkins

Day 3: Carter Scenic Reserve

We were fortunate to have copies of a substantial plant list originally compiled by A. P. Druce and added to over the years on numerous visits by Pat Enright, Olaf John and Tony Silbery.   Our role was to assist the local care group with plant identification as we traversed the extensive DOC wetland on boardwalks.   We were pleased to note that Coprosma pedicellata (=C. “violacea”), categorised nationally as in Gradual Decline, was conspicuously in fruit.   Long term, the extensive stands of tall raupo may contribute to drying the site by their own natural ecological processes.   However, discussion centred on whether there might also be effects from other processes such as draw-off of water for agricultural purposes which should be investigated, to restore the site’s hydrology, and stop the dieback of species such as kahikatea.   BotSoccer Pat McLean is leading the care group as they continue to pursue these and other issues of concern.

Barbara Mitcalfe

Participants :   Bev Abbott, Aidan Bichan (leader, day 2), Chris Black, Gavin Dench, Bryan Halliday, Tony Henry, Chris Hopkins, Chris Horne, Rodney Lewington, Pat McLean (leader, day 3), Barbara Mitcalfe, Chris Peterson, Darea Sherratt, Sunita Singh (trip organiser), Sheila Stapleton, Trevor Thompson (leader, day 1), Carol West, Pat White.


Please Email comments regarding this web page to webmaster (at)