Located in the West Coast region
The plateau is a fragile environment, plant life and animal habitat is easily destroyed. Keep to vehicle tracks and abide by the off-road care code.
A loop track provides a challenging 11 km journey across a spectacular sub-alpine plateau environment and offers dramatic views of mountain and coastal landscapes. Drive through Denniston township and turn right into Mt Rochfort Road. About 1.5 km along, a signpost on the right indicates the access road leading to the Denniston 4WD loop track.
For the more experienced head towards Burnetts Face and then follow the transmission pylon road from Denniston through to the Iron Bridge, north of Inangahua. The road winds its way through steep terrain with a couple of river crossings. After heavy rain the Mackley River in particular can be impassable. Just before the Iron Bridge exit the road passes through private land. Contact the New Creek Farm owners by phone or text on +64 21 900 089 before your trip.
Denniston is 18 km northeast of Westport. From Westport, follow SH67 north for 15 km. Turn right at Waimangaroa onto the road to Denniston.
This area has rapidly changing weather since it’s in the wild West Coast. Make sure you take appropriate warm clothing, a waterproof jacket, food and water when embarking on walks in the area.
The soils here contain coal deposits, are thin, poorly drained, infertile and highly acidic. This, combined with cold temperatures, high rainfall, high winds, and low sunshine hours makes for challenging conditions.
The plants that have adapted to this harsh environment are slow growing and fragile, adding to the uniqueness of the Denniston Plateau.
A combination of low podocarp-beech forest, manuka and Dracophyllum scrub, tussock grassland and pakihi/wetland areas provide for a wide variety of plants and animals.
Stunted shrubs such as manuka grow around the North Western snow tussock (Chionochloa juncea). This species is most common on the Denniston Plateau, and has formed a unique community with other hardy plants here.
The pygmy pine or mountain rimu (Lepidothamnus laxifolius) is believed to be the smallest conifer in the world. Usually found in high alpine areas, it is common at Denniston. It often forms a hybrid with yellow silver pine (Lepidothamnus intermedius), resulting in a low growing sprawling shrub.
Small red sundews are a feature of the wetland areas, their sticky droplets enticing tiny insects. 'At Risk' species such as Dracophyllum densum, and the eyebright (Euphrasia wettsteiniana) have all found their niche on Denniston Plateau and formed localised strongholds.
The plateau is home to the nationally endangered species of carnivorous land snail Powelliphanta patrickensis. A population of the even more endangered snail Powelliphanta augusta was moved from the Stockton Plateau to Mt Rochford in 2007.
Insects found on the plateau are similar to those normally found at higher altitudes. Many are large-bodied species.
Other significant native species include the great-spotted kiwi (roroa), that can be heard calling at night.
During the daytime you may be able to see:
West Coast green gecko, forest gecko and speckled skink are normally out of sight but roam around the area.
Predator numbers are low on the plateau and this is potentially why species such as the large-bodied invertebrates have survived there.
DOC carries out predator control operations when predator levels or seed levels are high (mast events) enough. These levels are determined through various methods of monitoring.
Human activity around the plateau has introduced weeds – mainly gorse, broom and the rush Juncus squarrosus. These are controlled annually.
For many decades Denniston was New Zealand's largest producing coal mine. Today its significance is reflected by its status as a Category 1 Historic Place.
Denniston on the West Coast is steeped in coal mining history. Here you can glimpse how it was to live here. Watch this video and discover what locals called the ‘eighth wonder of the world’.
Read stories from the interpretation panels at the Denniston Coalmining Historic Area in an ebook.
Visit the site of what was once New Zealand's largest producing coal mine, and one of the most isolated and difficult mining towns to live in.