Archives For West Coast

By Katrina Henderson, DOC Franz Josef

Five West Coast marine reserves were opened yesterday in Punakaiki—the culmination of nearly 10 years of work to protect more of our marine environment.

Kahurangi Marine Reserve coastline. Photo copyright of Andrise Apse.

Kahurangi Marine Reserve coastline

These are the first marine reserves to be created on the West Coast, bringing the total number of reserves in New Zealand to 44, covering 9.5% of the territorial sea.

They include three of the five largest marine reserves in mainland New Zealand.

The West Coast reserves cover a total area of more than 174 km2 and covers a range of unique West Coast ecosystems from the mountains out to sea.

Three reserves adjoin National Parks (Kahurangi, Paparoa and Westland Tai Poutini) and Te Wāhipounamu South West New Zealand World Heritage Area shares a boundary with three reserves.

Hector's dolphins. Copyright: Brian Sheppard.

Hector’s dolphins

Waiau Glacier Coast Marine Reserve and the small Tauparikākā Marine Reserve also border mātaitai reserves which help to extend the protection offered and recognise the shared responsibility we have in the guardian role with the tangata whenua.

Special species

A number of taonga species can be found within the West Coast marine reserve network including kekeno/New Zealand fur seal, kororā/little penguin, Tawaki/Fiordland crested penguin, and rimurapa/bull kelp.

Upokohue/Hector’s dolphins are found along the coast, but Taupirikākā offers the chance to possibly spot these majestic creatures just metres from the shore, as they cruise the coast.

Tawaki/Fiordland crested penguin. Photo copyright of John Reid.

Tawaki/Fiordland crested penguin

The reserves are also home to plenty of other species of marine life, including turfing seaweeds, mussels, surf clams, reef stars, flatfish, gurnard, stargazers and sharks. Together, the five reserves aim to protect examples of the wide diversity of the region’s distinctive marine habitats and species.

A collaborative process

The process that led to the creation of these five marine reserves began in 2005. A joint initiative between DOC and the then Ministry of Fisheries led to the establishment of the West Coast Marine Protection Forum. This was a diverse group representing the many interests involved in the marine environment of the West Coast, ranging from tangata whenua and community representatives through to commercial fishermen and environmental protection advocates.

The Forum is an excellent example of the collaborative regional forum approach encouraged by New Zealand’s Marine Protected Areas policy.

Jewel anemones. Photo: P. Ryan.

Jewel anemones

Key to the approach of the forum was an emphasis in true West Coast style on common sense and compromise. In the Punakaiki Marine Reserve for example, two areas of beach were left out of the reserve to allow for recreational fishing, shellfish gathering and whitebaiting.

Recreational hand-picking of beach stones, non-living shells and driftwood is allowed in the reserves.

Quad biking and horse riding is also allowed on the foreshore of the reserves, but only in a manner that does not disturb marine life.

Read more on DOC’s website.

Ship Creek at dusk. Photo copyright of Andrise Apse.

Ship Creek at dusk

Today’s photo of the week is of a native fern growing next to the Blue Pools on the West Coast of the South Island.

New Zealand is home to about 200 fern species, ranging from ten-metre-high tree ferns, to filmy ferns just 20 millimetres long. About 40% of these species occur nowhere else in the world.

Native fern growing by blue pools. Photo by Daniel Pietzsch | CC BY-NC 2.0.

Te Papa Museum is holding an online Science Live event this Friday (16 May) which will take viewers into the secret world of New Zealand’s ferns.

Botany curator, Leon Perrie, will be there to talk about our native fern species. Leon will also be answering questions during the live broadcast.

The event will be streaming live from 2—2:30 pm on the Te Papa YouTube channel.

Photo by Daniel Pietzsch | CC BY-NC 2.0

Arthur’s Pass recently celebrated 150 years since the European opening of the route that linked the east coast to the gold fields in the west.

The official opening the new Arthur’s Pass Walking Track was one of the events that marked the occasion.

DOC Ranger Tom Williams, writes:

DOC Director-General, Lou Sanson, speaking at the official opening of the Arthur's Pass walking track.

DOC Director-General, Lou Sanson, speaking at the official opening of the Arthur’s Pass Walking Track

150 years ago today (or thereabouts), in a time when an ‘epic’ was just a part of everyday life, the Dobson brothers stumbled across a pass linking the east coast to the gold fields in the west. That pass was Arthur’s Pass.

Legend has it that Arthur’s Pass isn’t named after Arthur Dudley Dobson as such, but rather that someone remarked that Arthur’s pass was the most suitable pass for direct travel to the west.

The name stuck, and Arthur’s Pass became one of only two places in New Zealand to have an apostrophe! (The other is Hawke’s Bay.)

Celebrations of this feat of discovery occurred over the weekend and resulted in the population of the pass swelling by over 400%.

Cutting the ribbon! Minister for the Environment, Amy Adams, and Zeb Patterson (the great, great, great, grandson of Arthur Dudley Dobson), open the Arthur’s Pass Walking Track

Cutting the ribbon! Minister for the Environment, Amy Adams, and Zeb Patterson (the great, great, great, grandson of Arthur Dudley Dobson), open the Arthur’s Pass Walking Track

Festivities commenced on the Friday night with the unveiling of a bronze kea statue. As we unveiled the taonga, a member of the audience did a sterling haka, and a real kea flew over us.

Arthur’s Pass is one of the best places in New Zealand to see these amazing birds.


Arthur’s Pass is one of the best places in New Zealand to see kea.

In typical Arthur’s Pass fashion, the main attraction—the official opening of the Arthur’s Pass walking track—was accompanied by clear skies and warm weather.

The creation of the new track, however, was no easy feat. DOC staff, and the contractors constructing the track, had to cope with the extremes of local weather.

So far the track has coped with many deluges of rain, gale force winds, blistering sun, a minus 17 degree frost, and a 2 metre snow dump!

Testing out the new Arthur's Pass Walking Track.

Many people took the opportunity to take a guided walk of the track and discover some of the magical flora and fauna of the pass

For those travelling to other places through the Pass, the route travelled has changed significantly from what it was 150 years ago.

Back then the journey took a long time. Once the coach road was constructed (can you believe that they managed to build the road from east to west in one year!) the journey was reduced to four days. Today it is a pleasant two hours to Christchurch, or one hour to the West Coast.

Discover the heritage and fantastic scenery of the Arthur’s Pass walking track yourself. Further information and directions can be found on the DOC website.