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Banks Peninsula Horomaka

Banks Peninsular Horomaka

(Image: Google Earth; Christchurch is visible as whitish patches in the upper right)

Banks Peninsular Overview


  • Just south of Christchurch, these ancient extinct volcanoes were once covered in native forests
  • Multiple organisations and groups are now working to restore ecosystems; see the menu as this list continually grows
  • The goal is to sequester carbon dioxide and provide ecosystem services needed to reduce the impacts of climate change.


Some 15 million years ago, the collision of two tectonic plates forced up the the mountains that today form the spine of Te Waipounamu South Island. Over time, glaciers bulldozed paths through the mountains and wide rivers carried the eroded material to the eastern coast, building land out over the shallow waters, creating the Canterbury Plains. Twelve million years ago, just off the east coast, Lyttelton volcano emerged from the seafloor. A few million years later, a second volcano, Akaroa erupted beside it.

Time passed. The silt and the gravels carried to the coast by the braided rivers eventually reached the shores of the volcanoes, joining them to the land. The volcanoes, whose hearts had opened to the sea to form two harbours, became Horomaka, the Banks Peninsular.

Before humans settled area around 900 years ago, the peninsular was almost entirely forested. During centuries of Maori occupation about a third of the forest was removed, mostly by fire.

Within decades of Europeans arriving, less than 1% of old-growth forest remained. The great trees had either been cut down for wood or burned to make way for pastures to graze sheep and cattle. Hares and rabbits devastated what little remained of the native plants that once helped provide life-supporting ecosystem services, including regulating the climate.

Birds, reptiles, and invertebrates, each playing a role in the once thriving ecosystems, were easy pickings for the predators that had also been introduced by humans: rats and stoats, possums and hedgehogs. And these predators were soon joined by the cats and goats and pigs that went feral. Yet in spite of this systematic devastation:

“As I was doing a detailed botanical look at the peninsula, I thought it would be completely trashed, but there’s so much still here.” – Hugh Wilson Fools & Dreamers: Regenerating a Native Forest

Exposed to snowy blasts from Antarctica and dessicatingly-dry nor-west winds, the species that evolved to live in this diverse landscape are keen to return. All they need is a fighting chance.

Pages in this section tell the stories of the many people of all ages, including the legendary Hugh Wilson, doing everything in their power to restore the forests and wetlands, coastal margins and waterways.

Each page contains information on their key actions, how these help to reduce the impacts of climate change, contacts and resources that we hope you will find useful, and where available, references and research material for students.

References and further reading