Eyre Mountains/Taka Rā Haka Conservation Park
Located in the Southland region
IntroductionThe park provides unique opportunities to enjoy a backcountry experience in a remote setting. The area is isolated and, for the most part, physically demanding. You can visit the tiny fragile historic Dog Box Hut.
- Tramping, fishing, hunting, four wheel driving, mountain biking, horse riding, picnicking and camping are popular options in this remote and scenic landscape.
- The smallest hut in the land, Dog Box Hut captures the lost era of the horseback high country muster.
- You can stay in Beech Hut, one of the oldest musterer’s huts remaining in Southland.
- There are good camping opportunities throughout the park. The Irthing Valley Picnic Area has a toilet and barbeque areas are provided. Elsewhere campers must be more self-sufficient. There are several beech clearings near hut sites suitable for pitching tents, as well as opportunities to camp in open valleys.
- The park covers 65,160 ha of existing public conservation land and includes the headwaters of the Upper Mataura and Ōreti Rivers that eventually flow into Foveaux Strait.
- The terrain at the southern end of the park is typically more gentle than the north, with altitudes dropping to 400 m in places.
Find things to do and places to stay Eyre Mountains/Taka Rā Haka Conservation Park
There are limited but challenging climbing opportunities including Eyre Peak at1969 m, and Jane Peak at 2022 m, the highest in Southland outside Fiordland National Park.
Trout fishing is particularly popular on the Oreti and Mataura Rivers, situated on the edge of the park. Within the park the Windley and Mataura Rivers also provide opportunities for anglers. Contact Southland Fish & Game for more information and fishing licences.
There is 4WD access to all the main valleys in the Eyre Mountains. These range from formed, metal roads to offroad tracks, with conditions varying from easy to difficult. Most of the access routes to the park are surrounded by pastoral runs or plantation forestry. Respect private land and leave gates as you find them.
Unless otherwise stated, there is legal public access through most of the stations surrounding the Eyre Mountains. These are generally well marked with green and gold posts – refer to the DOC signage enroute.
Horse riding is permitted in the Eyre Creek and Upper Mataura River.
The park is approximately an hour’s drive from Invercargill or Queenstown and can be accessed from a number of points along SH6 between Kingston and Five Rivers, the Five Rivers Mossburn Road and from SH94 Mossburn – Te Anau.
Practical and legal public access is available to the Ōreti, Acton, Cromel, Eyre Creek and Mataura catchments. Elsewhere access is over private roads or pastoral run land and permission must be obtained to cross it.
Access into the Eyre Mountains via Acton Road are closed due to heavy machinery operations. Rayonier Matariki Forests will consider public access requests – contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Access to Cromel Base hut is through private property. Contact the owner a day prior to entering due to farm operations/stock movements.
+64 21 290 0135
While the area offers a wide scope of recreational opportunities, it is recommended visitors to this area have good backcountry experience and are well prepared.
The terrain is remote and physically demanding, while weather patterns can change dramatically with little warning. Snow can fall at any time of the year, and sudden heavy rain can be particularly hazardous - as small easily crossed streams quickly become impassable.
Take adequate food, clothing and equipment. Portable stoves and fuel must be carried.
Mobile coverage in the area is extremely limited. It is recommended that visitors carry a Personal Locator Beacon or a Mountain Radio.
Topo50 series topographical maps CD09 South Mavora Lake, CD10 Eyre Peak, CD11 Kingston, CC10 Walter Peak, CC11 Queenstown should be used by all visitors to the park.
The conservation park boundary takes in the southern half of the Eyre Mountains block – heavily glaciated country where cirque basins, scree slopes, alpine tarns, and wetlands are typical. Extensive beech forests, snow tussocklands and very diverse alpine communities make up the ecology of this special portion of northern Southland high country.
A number of either Eyre Mountains or northern Southland local endemic plant species occur here, due in part to the location between wet and dry rainfall zones. Amongst these are a number of mountain daisies (Celmisia spp.), mountain buttercups (Ranunculus spp.), speargrasses (Aciphylla spp.), forget-me-nots (Myosotis spp.), hebe and pimelia species.
There are also another nine known nationally threatened and uncommon alpine plant species in the area. The threatened tree daisies Olearia hectorii and Olearia lineata, along with rare grasses, sedges and mistletoe, also inhabit the area.
Other natural features
- A number of plant species at their eastern, western or southern distribution limits
- The existence of ultramafic volcanic soils and associated endemic vegetation in the south west of the park at West Dome. These soils only appear again in South Westland and Nelson in the South Island
- A number of rare and endangered bird species including the only known population of piwauwau/rock wren outside the Southern Alps/Ka Tiritiri o te Moana
- A widespread population of karearea/falcon kea, kereru/wood pigeon and kakariki/yellow-crowned parakeet
- Some unique invertebrate fauna such as the declining giant Speden’s land snail Powelliphanta spedeni var spedeni, the giant Speden’s speargrass weevil and a stronghold for the ‘inch and half ground beetle Mecodema chiltoni
- A good variety of lizard species, both geckos and skinks
- Healthy river habitat for at least six species of native fish including; the Alpine galaxias (uncommon in Southland and Otago); the Southern flathead galaxias (only found in Southland and Stewart Island/Rakiura) and Gollum galaxias.
The Eyre Mountains/Taka Ra Haka have long attracted the Māori, European explorer, pastoralist and preservationist.
Māori named the area Taka Ra Haka in reference to the sun setting or dancing on the mountain tops at the end of the day. The Eyre Mountains were named by Captain J.L. Stokes of the Acheron survey (1848 – 51) after the explorer Edward John Eyre. Eyre was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of New Zealand from 1848 – 53 for the lower North Island and the whole of the South Island.
Southland’s major rivers such as the Waiau, Mataura, Oreti and Clutha were all used by early Māori as pathways to reach the resources of the interior. Southern Māori travelled into the Eyre Mountains following the Oreti River from its mouth at Omaui – Foveaux Strait/Te Ara a Kiwa to its upper reaches, on route to Lake Wakatipu and South Westland. The Upper Mataura River was also followed as part of a trail from the south through to Central Otago and beyond.
Māori moved through the area in search of food and to locate sources of stone such as the precious Pounamu/greenstone and Argillite, highly valued for tool making. Māori have held cultural and spiritual connections to the Eyre Mountains landscape, from the earliest ventures of the Waitaha and Katimamoe people, through many generations to the present day Ngāi Tahu, who will have an active role in the ongoing management of the park.
Early sheep farmers were not deterred by this rugged landscape and major pastoral runs were established across Northern Southland in the late 1850s and 1860s. Stations such as Fairlight, Cainard and Mt. Nicholas have strong historical links to this environment where old musterers’ huts remain to tell some of the story of the high country farming life. Beech Hut, built about 1913 in the Upper Mataura, is one of the oldest musterers’ huts in Southland. Along with the Dog Box Hut situated in Eyre Creek, they were part of a network of mustering huts across the Eyre Mountains and these now provide the tramper with a unique historical experience.
The former New Zealand Forest Service, Department of Lands and Survey and now Department of Conservation have all played key roles in protecting natural values in the Eyre Mountains. Intensive wild animal control efforts began in the 1970s in what was then State Forest Park and a myriad of tracks and huts were created in response to this cause. Much of the higher country was eventually retired from pastoral grazing and the initial protected area expanded to better represent the diverse values of the landscape. This has lead to the formation of today’s Eyre Mountains/Taka Ra Haka Conservation Park.
Dog Box Hut
Dog Box Hut, the smallest hut in the land, was built around 1916 and used by musterers in the 1920s during the autumn muster. Today it captures the lost era of the horseback high country muster. Read the history of Dog Box Hut.