Located in the Canterbury region
Talbot Forest, Waihi Gorge, Orari Gorge and Te Moana Scenic Reserve are treasured remnants of a vast forest that used to cover the mid-Canterbury plains. Pioneer Park, lying west of Pleasant Point on the foothills flanking the Brothers Range, also gives insight into early pioneering history in the area.
Before human arrival, a dense blanket of grassland and forest sprawled down from the high land and out across the plain. Human occupation and settlement led to fire and clearance and that all that remains of the original extensive bush are scattered pockets. Talbot Reserve today protects a mere 28 hectares.
The forest type here is largely mixed podocarp hardwood with some subtle changes in response to rainfall and other natural features. At Waihi Reserve you can see a few black beech/tawairauriki.
Local fossil records show species long since disappeared, including moa, kiwi, kākāpō and the laughing owl/whēkau.
Native birds found here include bellbird/korimako, pigeon/ kererü, grey warbler/riroriro and fantail/pïwakawaka. Others such as the shining cuckoo/pïpïwharauroa make seasonal appearances during spring and summer.
Small streams flowing out along the hills provide a habitat for small native fish, eels/tuna and invertebrates. Some of the streams also contain introduced trout.
The nocturnal, native longtailed bat/pekapeka is also found here in tree and rock habitats, but in reduced numbers.
Grey to russet quartzose sandstone (greywacke), occasional submarine volcanics, and sequences of limestone and coals laid down in predominantly marine conditions, were all uplifted, faulted and eroded over time to form the hills and mountains of the district.
The Talbot Forest Scenic Reserve site is on top of a 2.5 million-year-old basaltic lava flow. This flow, along with similar larger flows about Timaru, represents the most recent South Island mainland volcanic activity.
The dominant peak names of the area come from Tarahoa and his wife Hua te kerekere. Following their shipwreck at Shag Point they moved north and spent their lives on the east coast. On their death they were transformed into what is known today as Mt Peel (Tarahaoa) and Little Mount Peel/Hua te kerekere. Their son and daughter became two majestic forest trees and their four grandchildren became what is now known as “Four Peaks”. Only two of the four Māori names are known today – Whaka Tamiro and Hine Kua
Much of the early European activity in the area centred round logging of the bush.
At Pioneer Park an old chimney within a protective shelter marks the homestead site of William Burke, an early pioneer explorer of South Canterbury. On this site he built a slab and daub hut. The name Pioneer Park celebrates the life of the early pioneer families including some who had the foresight to recognise the value of trees in a landscape.
Auckland and parts of the Waikato are at Level 3. DOC huts and campsites are closed in these regions. The rest of New Zealand is at Level 2.