About the Project Area
Beech forest dominates the north of the range with hinau and matai characterising the hardwood forests and lower altitudes. Mahoe dominates on the moister soils in gully heads and on stream banks. Fuchsia, makomako, heketara, kohuhu, titoki, rewarewa, rimu, and miro are among other species present.
The shrublands of the river terraces and coastal foothills are generally dominated by tauninu while elsewhere manuka and kanuka are the prevalent species at low altitude. Small areas of sub-alpine shrubland occur on the higher peaks, up to 980m.
There are many diverse rare plants along the Cape Palliser coastline, including sand tussock Austrofestuca littoralis and Myosotis pygmaea, a tiny gravel-bank annual.
The Aorangi restoration project area is located in the south-eastern corner of the north Island stretching from Cape Palliser in the south to near Martinborough in the north.
By road, the area is around 80km south of Masterton and 100km east of Wellington.
The Aorangi Ranges are a key feature in the southern Wairarapa landscape. They, and the surrounding land, form the project area, an expanse of about 55,000 hectares, which holds locally, regionally, and nationally-significant historical, cultural, recreational, and biodiversity values.
The fur seal colony at Cape Palliser is the only one in the North Island where breeding is well-established.
Blue Penguins have been distinctive locals along our beaches, nesting and roosting under baches on the shore.
Other birds in the area include kaka, tui, kereru, piwakawaka (fantail), tauhou (silvereye), riroriro (grey warbler), miromiro (tomtit), tītiti pounamu (rifleman), korimako (bellbird) and pōpokotea (whitehead).
The area also contains breeding sites of variable oystercatcher, banded dotterel, and red-billed gull. Monitoring in the project area shows the presence of gecko and other lizards, and invertebrate taxa, especially weta and beetles.
Sites of geological significance include Nga ra a Kupe (the sail of Kupe’s canoe) at the mouth of Little Mangatoetoe Stream just west of Cape Palliser, the Ngapotiki alluvial fan on the east coast, 2.5 km south of the end of Ngapotiki Road at the mouth of Mataopera Stream and the Putangirua Pinnacles, at Te Kopi on Palliser Bay, one of New Zealand's most striking landforms. Nga ra a Kupe is an unusual geological feature, comprised of a huge slab of sandstone tilted on its edge and full of fossilised barnacles, shells, and other marine organisms.
The coastal area is noted for its uplifted marine benches and for its coastal cliffs around eastern side of Palliser Bay that date to the Miocene (up to 5.3 million years ago) and further north from Te Kopi through Whangaimoana to Lake Ferry the coastal cliffs are more recent (Pleistocene up to 2.6 million years ago).
The Aorangi offers opportunity for a world-class wilderness experience for a wide range of visitors: birders, bikers, botanisers, hunters, runners, trampers, walkers and others. Overnight accommodation is available around the Aorangi Forest Park and in six standard huts in the forest itself, with six legal access points via Kaiwaka, White Rock, Haurangi, Whakatomotomo, Whatarangi, and Cape Palliser roads. Private access via Makotukutuku and Pararaki streams and Ngapotiki/Stonewall requires landowner consent. The forest park is a recreational hunting area with good deer hunting in both the north and south. Pigs are also present in low numbers in the park.
The tracks and coastal routes offer sites of interest and stunning views of Palliser Bay and Remutaka and Kaikoura mountains. For four-wheel-drive enthusiasts and mountain bikers, a 26 km route through the park from Te Kopi to Waikuku is opened up several times a year.
Important archaeological sites in the Aorangi include Maori settlement and garden sites on the Palliser Bay coastal platform, including at Black Rocks, Pararaki and Te Humenga, and further inland Tauanui Pa and the Moikau and Makotukutuku house sites. A reconstruction of the 15th century Makotukutuku sleeping whare, built by local hapu Ngati Hinewaka, and a stone patu muka discovered at the Pararaki River mouth are notable displays at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
On his voyage of discovery of Aotearoa, the legendary Kupe is said to have made his headquarters here – Matakitaki a Kupe (Cape Palliser). The name of his tohunga, Peka-hourangi, may explain the name of the mountains: Haurangi (now Aorangi). Significant cultural sites of early Maori occupation are found along the coast: extensive middens, kainga, pa, uru pa, cultivation sites, garden stone walls and rim pits, and karaka groves.
Also, on the east coast, north of Cape Palliser, there’s a 19th century European stone wall that marked a boundary between the Pharazyn and Barton properties - reportedly erected as part of a boundary dispute. In 1843, European settlers Weld, Bidwill, Clifford, Petre and Vavasour drove merino sheep around the south coast to begin some of New Zealand’s largest sheep stations.