Ohinetahi Bush Reserve

Background
The Ohinetahi Bush Reserve, owned and managed by the Summit Road Society might be considered the flagship of the Society. It is an area of 150 hectares which stretches from above Governors Bay to Allandale, generally above the 150 metre contour, reaching to the crater rim of the ancient Lyttelton volcano.

The Reserve has a Queen Elizabeth II covenant over it and is therefore protected in perpetuity. It is of rugged terrain, steep but shallow gullies, spurs, ridges, massive rock outcrops and intrusions, with strong volcanic characteristics. As viewed from Governors Bay main road it is scenically spectacular, as are the views from the Reserve looking across the Lyttelton Harbour basin and the surrounding hills.

Vegetation is mixed from open grassland, bracken and gorse-clothed areas to regenerating native forest at various stages of maturity. There is a sprinkling of matai and mature totara trees, but in the main forested areas comprise of the smaller hardwood species. In the cooler gullies there is a wide variety of ferns.

With pest management being carried out in recent years the native bird population is increasing. Birdsong is dominated by the bellbirds, which is continuously echoing through the Reserve. Fantails, silver eyes, grey warblers, and native pigeons are commonly sighted, with the occasional sighting of tomtits.

A network of tracks allows access to the Reserve from the Summit Road and Governors Bay.

Please download a map of the Ohinetahi tracks here: Ohinetahi Tracks
The tracks can also be accessed on Google Earth here: Ohinetahi Tracks on Google Earth
Instructions for Google Earth here: Ohinetahi Tracks Google Earth Basic Instructions
 
History
The Reserve derives its name from the area known as Ohinetahi, between Governors Bay and Allandale. Little is known of its pre-European history, but there was a Ngai Tahu pa in the area when a Ngati Mamoe settlement was overwhelmed around 1720. Ohinetahi means “one daughter,” that of the chief Te Rangi Whakaputa.

The Reserve was used by the iwi for hunting (birds) and other food gathering. Most of the original forest cover was destroyed by fire during either pre-European times or by the early European settlers, so today’s bush cover is of variously-aged regenerating forest apart from an odd ancient podocarp. A section of Bush Road track follows and old benched trail along the 150 metre contour. There is no indication what this was used for; perhaps for logging, or as an access route from the plains via Gebbies Pass to Lyttelton township in earlier times.

In the 1970’s large tracts of land in the area were purchased by an American entrepreneur Gerald O’Farrell, including much of the Reserve land. Promoting himself as a millionaire he planned an extensive residential settlement before being bankrupted and exposed as a charlatan. A legacy of his is O’Farrells Track, which he bulldozed close to the 150 metre contour, a large section of which is within the Reserve and remains one of the major tracks. The open grassland on the Reserve directly above Governors Bay was rich horticultural land used to grow early season potatoes for the Christchurch market and then a crop of tomatoes each season. This activity continued well into the 1960’s. Gordon Kirk purchased this block in 1965 and grew flowers commercially for 20 years. The acquisition of the Reserve for the Society was the brainchild of Gordon Kirk (life member) who clearly understood the ecological, recreational and scenic value of the block, having owned and worked on parts of it for 20 years. Through his foresight and serious efforts to acquire the land the first block of 28 hectares was purchased in 1992, after protracted legal dealings with the mortgagee of the O’Farrell estate. The purchase was made possible by funds from the Forest Heritage Trust and Governors Bay Community Association, with the balance coming from the Society’s reserves. Since that time further adjacent blocks have been purchased. The purchase of further adjacent and appropriate blocks is of interest to the Society.

Management of the Reserve
A management plan has been completed for the Reserve. After much debate and advice from botanist Hugh Wilson a policy has now been established to work towards the regeneration of native forest for the whole of the Reserve. Generally this will be achieved using the succession method, which was strongly recommended by Hugh Wilson. That is, to make use of bracken fern, gorse and broom cover as a nursery bed for the natural propagation of native seedlings, the seed having been spread by birds. The seedlings will eventually grow through, blocking out the light and thus killing the nursery crop. However, it is a legal requirement to clear boundaries of gorse and broom and this is being achieved. Our boundary above Governors Bay has been cleared of gorse and planted with seedlings selected as fast growing and fire resistant natives. The Reserve’s network of tracks has been built and is maintained by the hard-working Ohinetahi work party, and all tracks are marked on the Reserve map. The tracks traverse a wide variety of terrain and travel through steep, rugged and spectacular forest and open grasslands. Regular work on weed eradication is carried out by the working group. They are always on the lookout for old-mans-beard, banana passionfruit, barberry, hawthorne, spindleberry and cherry (a legacy from the cherry orchards of Governors Bay in years gone by). Honeysuckle and blackberry are also dealt with as time permits. The method of eradication is cutting at root level and painting with herbicide. Pest control started in 2003 when ECan contractors eliminated approximately 400 possums using cyanide bait stations. Since then the Society has been targeting possums and rats, slowly increasing the areas being covered. By 2008, 150 permanent bait stations had been installed and these are regularly monitored and recharged with bait. In 2006 traps were installed targeting stoats, weasels, ferrets and feral cats. The results have been encouraging with increased bird life and native seedlings sprouting within the forest. Rabbits are also targeted from time to time, especially in open grassland areas where planting takes place.

The Ohinetahi Work Party
The Ohinetahi work party meets on the Reserve each Tuesday throughout the year to put in about 6 hours work. There are 15 in the team with a good turnout each week. All the tracks within the Reserve have been built by the team and are being maintained and improved on a regular basis. As outlined above, weed control, pest control, and planting also keeps the group busy. In the early summer, two weed eaters are busy each Tuesday dealing with the rampant grass growth along the tracks. The team also works outside the Reserve on other reserves, and weeding on adjacent private land from time to time. It was a major player in developing the tracks on Omahu Reserve further south towards Gebbies Pass. New members are always welcome.

Contact Anne Kennedy on (03) 337 0364 or kennedyz@xtra.co.nz