Te Wāhipounamu - South West New Zealand World Heritage Area

The South West of New Zealand is one the great natural areas of the world. It is internationally recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Known to the original Māori inhabitants as Te Wāi Pounamu – the greenstone waters, the 2.6 million hectare site encompasses Westland Tai Poutini, Aoraki/Mount Cook, Mount Aspiring Tititea and Fiordland National Parks and covers almost 10% of New Zealand’s total land area.

What makes the South West of New Zealand a World Heritage Area?

  • Rocks, plants and animals which take us back 80 million years to a time when New Zealand was part of the ancient super continent Gondwana.
  • Lake Matheson, Westland Tai Poutini National Park.
    Lake Matheson, Westland National Park

    Spectacular ice carved fiords, lakes and valleys – amongst the finest examples of glaciated landforms in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • From mountain to sea, landscapes of untouched beauty.
  • A stronghold for rare plants and animals living in a range of habitats.
  • Much of the area is covered with ancient and mature stands of southern beech and podocarp trees. The kea, an alpine parrot lives in the park, as does the rare and endangered takahe, a large flightless bird. Within this area there are three endemic taxon of kiwi; rowi, Haast tokoeka and Fiordland tokoeka, the first two of which are the most endangered varieties of kiwi in New Zealand

Mount Tutoko and Mount Madeline, Darran Mountains, Fiordland National Park.
Darran Mountains, Fiordland National Park

What makes the South West of New Zealand a special place for Ngāi Tahu?

To Ngāi Tahu the great mountains and valleys of Te Wāhipounamu are the places of Atua (gods). The whakapapa (genealogies) of ancestors, who stand on the landscape, and the recognition of the deeds of those ancestors, are important cultural identifiers to these places.

Related links

Te Wahipounamu's national parks:

Native animals:


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For more information, please contact the World Heritage team worldheritage@doc.govt.nz