Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project comprises approximately 5000 hectares of predominantly red, silver and mountain beech forest. The project aims to restore this area of beech forest. This is being achieved through an extensive predator trapping programme and the area is managed as a "mainland island".
Situated alongside Lake Rotoiti within Nelson Lakes National Park, the area can be visited at any time of year. In summer, the area bustles with holidaymakers while in winter snow-covered peaks create a spectacular setting.
Take one of the many walks through the project and you'll see and hear the results of this work; a forest alive with the sights and sounds of birds. Bellbirds chime a constant chorus, fantails can be seen flitting from tree to tree and increasingly the screech of the kaka can be heard ringing out.
Information panels along the way tell the story of the project and the plants and animals that call it home. The DOC Nelson Lakes Visitor Centre also has interesting and informative displays on the project.
Establishing the project
The Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project (RNRP) was established within the Nelson Lakes National Park at the northern end of the Southern Alps in 1997 as one of six Department of Conservation ‘mainland islands’.
The mainland island programmes aimed to achieve similar results as those achieved on many protected offshore islands with a major focus being on conducting research into pest management methods and sharing the lessons learnt.
The site at Rotoiti was selected because it contained montane honeydew Nothofagus beech forest typical of the indigenous cover of the northern South Island of New Zealand. The initial area of 825 hectares is close to the park’s visitor centre at St Arnaud and easily accessible for staff and for the public.
Honeydew beech forests can support large numbers of native birds: the honeydew scale insect provides an energy source for nectar-feeding birds, and the sporadic and intense beech seed production ("masting") provides food for large numbers of seed-eating birds.
Unfortunately this unique ecosystem has been altered dramatically by introduced deer, possums, mice, stoats, and wasps. The goal is to reduce the numbers of these pests so that the ecological processes of this honeydew beech forest can recover.
The area comprises a range of Nothofagus beech forest types from tall red beech adjacent to Lake Rotoiti at 620m above sea level through silver beech then mountain beech to tussock tops at 1600m on top of the St Arnaud Range.
Bringing back the bird sound
The success of the project's work is evident when walking through the beech forest. There is a resounding chorus of bellbirds, mistletoe is becoming more visible and small groups of kaka can be spotted.
Great spotted kiwi have been reintroduced and are breeding successfully.
Effects of predator control
The project area and Lake Rotoiti are easily reached from both Nelson and Marlborough. From Nelson City, follow State Highway 6 south and take the turn-off to the left sign-posted for Nelson Lakes after passing through Wakefield. This road reaches a T-junction with State Highway 63 where you turn right to reach the village of St Arnaud and Lake Rotoiti.
From Blenheim take State Highway 63 south-west out of town and follow it all the way to St Arnaud. If travelling north on State Highway 6 from Springs Junction, you can reach St Arnaud by turning right onto State Highway 63 at Kawatiri Junction north of Murchison. Bus services to St Arnaud operate on an irregular basis. Phone the Nelson Lakes Visitor Centre for more information.