Nature and conservation
Pirongia Mountain is the largest area of native forest remaining close to Hamilton and is of considerable conservation value due to the variety of plant life and wildlife habitats available.
Rimu and tōtara are found at lower altitudes along with tawa and tree ferns. Higher up, the forest changes; hardy plants like kāmahi, tāwari, horopito and mountain neinei grow on exposed ridges and near the summit, thick mats of mountain flax, coprosmas and ferns are common.
Northern rātā and kohekohe are still present in the canopy but are a favourite food of possums. A special feature is the 700-year-old pāhautea trees that grow near Pahautea Hut.
Pest control programmes undertaken by DOC and the community are in place to help save these and other vulnerable species, including wildlife. Grey warblers, fantails, tomtits, pipits, harriers, kingfishers, New Zealand falcons, kererū, tūī, bellbirds and whiteheads can still be seen, although kiwi and kōkako have disappeared from the area. Several species of native fish and a huge variety of aquatic invertebrates are found in the mountain streams.
Dactylanthus taylorii/Pua ō te reinga is a rare and endangered plant found on the ridges of Mt Pirongia. It is New Zealand’s only completely parasitic flowering plant and grows partially underground. The short-tailed bat, also endangered, pollinates the flowers, attracted by the plant’s sweetsmelling nectar. Many of the plants are caged to protect them from possums.
History and culture
Pirongia Mountain was named ‘Pirongia te aroaro o Kahu’ (the fragrant presence of Kahu) by a tohunga of the Tainui canoe in honour of his wife.
Pirongia Forest Park is 25 km south east of Hamilton.
Know before you go
Be prepared for all types of weather.
The high level tracks on Pirongia and Karioi follow steep-sided ridges. Water is difficult to find, especially in summer, so be sure to take sufficient drinking water with you.
Because of poorly drained soils, many of the tracks can be very muddy, especially after rain.