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Banks Peninsula: Hinewai Reserve

Banks Peninsula: Hinewai Reserve

Photo: Michael Klajban (Wikpedia CC)

Hinewai Reserve

Official website


  • Privately owned 1250-hectare ecological restoration project (Fig. 1) managed by the Maurice White Native Forest Trust.
  • The Trust also manages the neighbouring 192-hectare Purple Peak Curry Reserve, which is owned by the New Zealand Native Forest Restoration Trust.
  • Operates on the principle of minimal interference by creating the conditions that allow endemic plants and animals to return to lands that were mostly forested before humans arrived (Video 1).

“With the opportunity of income now from this land is carbon sequestration. Stop trying to farm marginal land, don’t even plant exotic forests on itfor timber maybe but certainly not for carbon sequestration; it’s just replacing one ridiculous folly with another ridiculous follythe scene is wide open for taking this marginal gorse infested hill country and letting it just do what it was doing on a much grander scale, regenerating into native cost on its own.  We don’t have to plant this stuff. Nature’s doing it. All we’ve got to do is take away the deleterious things that are stopping it happening, fast.”  Hugh Wilson, Manager (Video 1)

Key actions

  • Initially purchased manageable block of marginal farmland that included old-growth forest
  • Projected grounded in science
  • Communicated plans to the wider community
  • Removed only highly invasive and competitive exotic plants and animals where practical
  • Successfully demonstrated the role of gorse as a nurse canopy for native forest regeneration
  • Created pathways for the public to enjoy the native bush, forest and waterfalls
  • Took opportunities to purchase or manage adjoining properties
  • Fully documented work so it can be replicated elsewhere

Gorse: fostering the regeneration of native forests

In the early 1800s, vast tracts of New Zealand’s native forests were felled and replaced by farmlands. Gorse, a thorny bush native to Western Europe provided good wind shelter for stock and crops, so it was introduced to here. By 1861 it was recognised as a pest species that was rapidly taking over agricultural land. But it continued to be imported and deliberately grown until the early 1900s. Methods to control it largely failed. Burning or bulldozing it creates the ideal conditions for the seeds—which can lie dormant on the ground for up to 50 years—to germinate.

Today, it’s considered the most costly agricultural pest plant in New Zealand.

But the very attributes that make it much hated plant amongst agriculturalists, also make it a surprisingly good nursery plant for native seedlings. It grows fast in full sunlight. It’s thorny bushes help protect native seedlings from grazing livestock and other introduced pests. And being legumous, it fixes nitrogen in the soil. So native seedlings are both fertilised and sheltered. Once native trees are large enough, they shade out the gorse, eventually killing it (Figs. 2 & 3).

This can happen within a decade.

Fig. 2: Gorse (distinctive yellow flowers) is serving as a nursery plant for native forest regeneration. (Image: Happen Films)
Fig. 3: Hugh Wilson points out how gorse (left) dies when shaded out by native forests. (Image: Happen Films)
Fig. 1: Hinewai Reserve on Banks Peninsular just south of Christchurch (Image: Google Maps). The recent (May 2020) purchase of 37 hectares has extended the area to the coast at Stony Bay.

How this helps mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change

“You’re not getting pasture back, but you’re getting native forests back, with all its benefits—increased benefits now with all the carbon sequestration benefits—as well as the ecological and biodiversity values that are being fostered this way.”                      Hugh Wilson, Manager

    • Cleans drinking water for Akaroa township
    • Reduces soil erosion. This is particularly important as weather is predicted to intensify and sea levels are rising. Less erosion means less sediment washed into the ocean where it would otherwise smother and kill coastal and marine ecosystems including salt marshes and seaweed (both of which absorb large quantities of carbon dioxide).
    • Increases habitats for endemic taonga species including insects and birds that pollinate plants and enhance soil carbon
  • Provides nodes for native plants to spread
  • Demonstrates how gorse has successfully been used as a nursery plant
  • Raises public awareness of climate change, the role of healthy biodiversity, and how farming practices can and must be changed
  • Healthy ecosystems are sources of mahinga kai, helping us become more resilient as the climate changes

“I think the the community is absolutely in support of Hinewai. We realised that the way farming was done over the years had to be changed, and I think what he has done has helped people realise that it can be done in a in a good way.Banks Peninsula farmer Bob Masefield, in Fools & Dreamers

There is great groundswell now of people who are closing off whole gullys because it’s uneconomical land. They’re letting the bush grow back and they’re fencing it off so that nature can be there, so we can have these corridors, and so that the birds can move in, the insects can move in, and things can get from the summit to the sea and over the hills to the next one.Hinewai resident Trish Hewitt in Fools & Dreamers

Resources and contacts

References and further reading


Endemic species

Species that evolved to live in a certain ecosystem due to natural processes, such as evolution and natural barriers that prevent them from moving elsewhere. These species are found only in a particular environment and nowhere else. This makes them more vulnerable to becoming endangered or extinct if their restricted habitat changes or is destroyed.

Native species

Can exist in several locations and countries. Many birds and marine animals, especially those that are migratory, are found in several countries.