Beans Burn rock pool Dart ValleyTe Wahipounamu
South West New Zealand World Heritage Area

In 1990 the Westland and Mount Cook National Park, Fiordland National Park including Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, and Mt Aspiring National Park from the Humboldt's to the Haast River, was awarded World Heritage Status for its outstanding universal value as a site of natural and cultural heritage and was named Te Wahipounamu - South West New Zealand.  

There are over 830 designated World Heritage Sites listed from 183 member countries, all recognizing that there are some places on earth so important that their enjoyment and protection is an international responsibility, thus protecting and preserving their legacy for all future generations.  

Places become a World Heritage site because they represent the best examples of the world's natural and cultural heritage. These include the Great Barrier Reef - Australia ; Yellowstone and Grand Canyon National Parks - USA ; and The Great Wall of China.  

New Zealand has three sites of international importance

  • Tongariro National Park
  • Te Wahipounamu - South West New Zealand
  • Sub-Antarctic Islands of New Zealand

Beach Forest in ParadiseTe Wahipounamu (The Place of the Greenstone) has been caved and shaped by years of glaciations, receding to show the most amazing fjords, rocky coasts, towering cliffs, lakes and waterfalls.  

Two-thirds of the park is covered with southern beech and podocarps, some of which are over 800 years old. Large leaved Red Beech trees are found on the warm rich alluvial valley floors, while mountain and silver beech dominate higher up in the valley's.  

Kea, the only alpine parrot in the world, lives in the National Parks, as does the rare and endangered takahe, a large flightless bird. Kiwi and native bats have been reported in the Caples and Greenstone Valley's , but there have been no recent confirmed sightings.  

The Dart Valley has a sizeable populations of the endangered mohua, or yellowhead birds and the presence of long-tailed bats. Other forest birds such as kakariki or parakeet, robin, tomtit, fantail and brown creeper thrive in the area. Whio (or blue duck) are found in fast flowing streams and rivers in the valleys, and the noisy paradise ducks are conspicuous inhabitants of the river flats.  

Remnants of the giant Moa bird have been found in both the Rees and the Routeburn Valley's . These huge flightless birds stood approximately 3 meters tall and weighed about 250 kilograms. It is estimated that there were about 11 different species of Moa around New Zealand but all have been extinct for several hundred of years.  

The best way to find out more about this amazing areas is to go on one of the great tours available. Contact Us to find out more about activities that will take you to the heart of Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area's natural and cultural history.  

Possum, photo by DOCNew Zealand Pests

The New Zealand Possum was introduced from Australia in the 18th century for the sole purpose of establishing a fur trade. This nocturnal rodent quickly adapted to its new environment of lush native bush and temperate climate.  

It is now estimated that New Zealand's forests are host to over 70 million possum, eating an average of 21300 tonnes of vegetation a night, devastating New Zealand's native forest's and birdlife.  

Possum Fur manufactures are currently promoting its fur and pelts as an environmentally friendly product. Excellent for outdoor and fashion garments, souvenirs and leather. This versatile fur is unique as it is hollow in the centre of the hair, creating a thermos which can keep all your extremities warm in the harshest conditions.  

Find out how to Buy a Possum Save a Tree

Mohua Yellowhead in Tree, photo by DOCThe introduction of mice, rats, and stoats has had a devastating effect on New Zealand's native birdlife, including the already endangered mohua (yellowhead bird), which is featured on the NZ$100 note.  

Many mohua, around the South Island are now extinct but for a small number of breeding sites. The Dart and Caples beech forests can boast being one of the largest nesting sites in New Zealand, although still under terrible threat from growing rodent problems.  

Department of Conservation (DOC) has set up an initiative in the area called 'Operation Ark ' to monitor the effects of rodents and respond to any predator increases. This will hopefully help protect the Mohua and other rare breeds such as the long-tailed cuckoo, Kakariki (yellow fronted parakeet), whio (blue duck), as well as the scarce long and short tailed bats.

Didymo or rock snot is a microscopic alga currently present in the Von, Hawea, Clutha Rivers and Lake Dunstan

All those using waterways anywhere in the South Island will be required to clean all equipment (including boat, trailer and clothing) before moving from one water system to another.

For more information contact the Department of Conservation, Fish & Game Southland Region, or Biosecurity NZ

To find out more information on guided tours higlighting this areas amazing natural history Contact Us.

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