Moria Gate Arch, Oparara Basin

Introduction

The Provincial Growth Fund investment at the Ōpārara Basin in Kahurangi National Park will ensure the natural heritage arches and cave ecosystems of the area are protected for future generations.

About the Ōpārara Basin

The Ōpārara Basin is one of the finest features of Kahurangi National Park. It is 20 kilometres north of Karamea in the Buller District on the West Coast.

For a million years the Ōpārara River has sculpted the 35 million-year-old limestone basin into caves, arches and channels. These features include Box Canyon, Moria Gate and Ōpārara Arch.

The surrounding forest is a mixture of beech and podocarp trees, thickly carpeted with mosses and ferns.

Birds, insects, and fish flourish in the environment, which is home to the rare long-tailed bat, the giant land snail Powelliphanta, the Nelson cave spider, and whio/blue duck. The Ōpārara Basin is a great spotted kiwi sanctuary.

All insects, fossils, native birds and plant species are protected.

Project background

The Ōpārara Basin is a popular destination for visitors – 11,000 people visited in the 2017/18 year.

Facilities were improved in 2008 but wear-and-tear and increasing visitor numbers have meant that further upgrades are needed.

In 2018 the Ōpārara Valley Trust and Tourism West Coast sought funding from the Provincial Growth Fund for the Ōpārara (Arches) Project and received $5.7 million. The Prime Minister approved this funding in late 2018.

The project seeks to improve the visitor infrastructure at the Ōpārara Basin, with a focus on the deteriorating McCallums Mill Road and Ōpārara Arch Track.

Improving the facilities will make visiting the Ōpārara Basin safe and sustainable and will provide additional protection to the unique natural features.

The project also affirms Ngāti Waewae as guardians of the Ōpārara Basin.

The Department of Conservation leads this project, since all the components fall within the boundaries of the conservation estate, but DOC has partnered with the Ōpārara Valley Trust and Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Waewae who are kaitiaki of this rohe (area).

What we're doing

The project includes:

  • McCallums Mill Road upgrade for visitor safety
    • Replacement culverts to strengthen the road against weather damage.
    • Widening of some road sections to improve visitor safety and reduce vehicle incidents by providing passing bays and better visibility.
  • McCallums Mill Road viewing area and interpretation site
  • Mirror Tarn viewing structure
  • Ōpārara Basin track and structures construction
    • Honeycomb Hill Caves security and monitoring upgrade (completed).
    • Box Canyon carpark toilet upgrade to a flush toilet (completed).
    • Ōpārara Arch Track upgrade to meet visitor safety standards and improve visitor experience.
    • Mirror Tarn Track extension back to the main Ōpārara carpark.
    • Installation of inground steps in the entrance to Moria Gate.

Project documents

Moria Gate Cave entrance steps plans (PDF, 1,001K) 21 March 2021

Ōpārara Arch Track natural hazards assessment  (PDF, 10,196K) 17 March 2021

Mirror Tarn viewing platform concept (PDF, 1,554K) 21 January 2021

Ōpārara Basin landscape and visual assessment (PDF, 4,065K) 28 August 2020

Ōpārara Arches Project assessment of environmental effects (PDF, 12,144K) April 2020

Ōpārara Arches archeological assessment (PDF, 13,638K) June 2019

Media releases

Ōpārara visitor infrastructure improvements to begin 14 May 2020

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