Omahu, the Maori name meaning “running silently”, “escaping” and “a place of healing” was given to the area following an escape through the bush by several of the followers of a Maori chief who had been killed in a skirmish on Coopers Knob.
The land was part of Sir Heaton Rhodes’s Otahuna estate. Following his death in 1956, the Crown acquired 1978 hectares, and in July 1957, the land was divided into small farm lots sold to returned servicemen under the Rehab Loan scheme.
The Prendergasts acquired about 450 hectares including a house which may have been Sir Heaton Rhodes head gardener’s residence. They cleared the lower part of the land, but left the upper slopes in bush. In the early 1980s, Dr. Brian Molloy, an academic at Lincoln College and an honorary botanist for the Summit Road Society, suggested protecting the bush on the upper slopes by means of a Queen Elizabeth II Open Space Covenant in return for the Queen Elizabeth II Trust paying for the fencing. The Prendergasts agreed and the Covenant was signed in October 1985.
The Queen Elizabeth II covenanted area was sold in 1998 to the Gama Foundation, a charitable trust established by Grant and Marilyn Nelson. The Foundation then embarked on a pest control programme and renewal of fencing, as the bush had suffered from the actions of feral goats, pigs, deer and possums.
Gibraltar Farm was also a Rehab Loan purchase, initially by Douglas Anderson and was later sold and subdivided. The area known as Gibraltar Rock along with the grazing land up to the Summit Road was sold to the Gama Foundation in 2007 and duly protected by Queen Elizabeth II Open Space Covenant in January 2008.
The Summit Road Society has been actively involved in helping the Gama Foundation with track work and general reserve maintenance. Grant and Marilyn Nelson, appreciating the need for a long-term strategy to manage the land, entered into discussions with the Christchurch City Council and the Summit Road Society, and as a consequence, ownership and responsibility for the day-to-day management of Omahu Bush and Gibraltar Rock has now passed to the Summit Road Society.
What now for Omahu Bush?
The Society has appointed Ian Johnston as Honorary Ranger to watch over Omahu Bush, and arrange for maintenance work to be done, such as;
- Maintaining foot tracks and vehicle tracks for public access.
- Controlling animal pests, and invasive plant pests in Omahu Bush.
- Keeping plant pests off Gibraltar Rock and the surrounding pastoral area.
- Arranging for pasture areas to the north of Omahu Bush to be grazed only by sheep, with the income from grazing being used for work on the property.
New volunteers are warmly welcomed. Tools can be supplied.
Contact Ian Johnston on (03) 332 8319 or email@example.com