In 2015 four QEII National Trust protective covenants, collectively known as Mahu Whenua, were placed over 90% of the land that makes up four former high-country sheep stations between Wanaka and Arrowtown. Covering 53,000 hectares, Mahu Whenua is the largest ever conservation effort on private land in New Zealand, and Arrowtown is the only residential area bordering it.
The name Mahu Whenua means ‘healing the land’, reflecting the desire of the leaseholder, Soho Property Ltd, to return the landscape to its natural state after many decades of destructive sheep farming. More than 1.3 million native trees, flaxes, shrubs and grasses have been planted and native birds have returned to the destocked hills. There is a robust programme to keep wilding conifers in check so that the natural ecosystem can regenerate.
Preventing the spread of wilding trees, which were gradually taking over the hillsides of Mahu Whenua and smothering the autumn colour on Tobins Face, is a team effort. In 2017 the AVA helped to develop the Arrowtown Wilding Strategy. This was undertaken following extensive community consultation as part of Shaping Our Future and with all the other stakeholders in town. Since then the community, led by the Arrowtown Choppers, as well as commercial contractors have done extensive control work around Arrowtown. Through the twice yearly Beech Party, the community have planted over 10,000 trees, with up to 100,000 to come, including New Zealand beech and non-invasive exotics like oak, ash and maple on Tobins Face and along the river for autumn colour.
With the wilding work becoming more visible on the fringes of Arrowtown, we know that people are again curious about the long-term strategy and the future impact for Arrowtown's world-renowned aesthetic. That’s why the AVA is hosting a Mahu Whenua Information Evening on Tuesday 21 March at the Athenaeum Hall from 7.30pm. This is an opportunity for the public to hear from Soho Property's manager and from the QEII National Trust, and get an update on the progress of the Arrowtown Wilding Strategy. This is to help you understand the environmental imperatives being managed, as well as the practicalities of ownership and responsibility. In turn, you are invited to ask questions or express concerns and to make your feelings known on a matter that is important to us all.
Tracks and trails
Public access is an important part of Mahu Whenua. In addition to the creation of the Motatapu Track in 2008, more than 20 tracks for walking and mountainbiking have been upgraded or built from scratch. At the meeting we’ll hear from the Queenstown Trails Trust, who view Arrowtown as a key hub for active transport and access to backcountry trails (most notably the instantly popular 50km Coronet Loop). Many of these activities intersect so there is a need to make a unified plan for our managed and natural environment. This presentation will also include concept plans from the Arrowtown Promotion and Business Association, in partnership with the AVA, to pursue a new crossing over Bush Creek to further connect the town to the Arrow River and surrounding country.
As a result of this meeting we hope to identify key stakeholders of all points of view who can participate in an Arrowtown Masterplan committee, which will combine with QLDC to work towards a strategic plan that incorporates the present and future needs of Arrowtown including parks, roading, traffic and other infrastructure.
So come along, find out what's been happening at Mahu Whenua and what lies in store, and have your voice heard!