Hinewai Reserve: One botanist and his team assisting nature to return land back to native forest in New Zealand

Hinewai is an ecological restoration project on Banks Peninsula in New Zealand which has been regenerated back into beautiful native forest thanks to its guardian and botanist, Hugh Wilson.

Hugh Wilson – who is the subject of a short documentary, Fools & Dreamers: Regenerating A Native Forest, by Happen Films (you can watch the video below) – oversees 1500 hectares resplendent in native forest, where birds and other wildlife are abundant and 47 known waterfalls are in permanent flow.

Operating under a management strategy of “minimal interference”, he and his team allow nature to run its course towards a vegetation cover similar to that prevailing before the forest clearance by human settlers, first partly by Polynesian settlers from about 700 years ago, second and nearly completely by European settlers from around 1850 onwards.

The Hinewai team remove alien elements that seriously impede the re-establishment of native flora and fauna – that is a few highly invasive and competitive exotic trees and vines and a few seriously deleterious animals, provided that their removal is practical. Otherwise they leave things alone.

At Hinewai, the exotic gorse – a disliked weed of pastoral farming – has played a pivotal role in the regenration of this forest since it serves as a highly effective temporary nurse canopy for native regeneration.

Hinewai, which lies east of the town of Akaroa on the South Island’s east coast, is privately owned and managed by the Maurice White Native Forest Trust, but freely open the public on foot.

Initially 109 hectares were purchased by the Maurice White Native Forest Trust in 1987. Since then the trust has greatly enlarged the reserve through the purchase of Ōtānerito Station in 1991 and through several subsequent additions.

When, in 1987, Hugh Wilson let the local community know of his plans to allow the introduced “weed” gorse to grow as a nurse canopy to regenerate farmland into native forest, people were not only skeptical but outright angry – one farmer wrote in the local newspaper that the plan was the sort to be expected only of “fools and dreamers”. He is now considered a hero locally and across the country.

Hinewai Reserve

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyles including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com

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