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Given the task of deciding where to site observation posts during World War 2, it is easy to understand why this location was chosen. The views are expansive in every direction.
Out east, the intimacy of the southern bays counterpoise the rising escarpment, culminating in the abrupt ridge of the Rimutakas. Cape Palliser peers out at the conclusion of Palliser Bay.
The snow-capped peaks of Manakau and Tapuae-O-Uenuku herald the South Island and dwindle to the Wairau Valley. The ridges of the Marlborough Sounds are blocked at the northern tip by the ominous cliffs below.
Together with the station at Makara, an enemy advance would have been spotted from afar.
The Access to Hawkins Hill wind turbine is on Ashton Fitchett Drive in Kowhai Park. From the city, follow Victoria Street, Brooklyn Road, Todman Street and Karepa Street.
The start of the track is at the end of the tar sealed road, a 1 hour walk from the wind turbine.
Visit https://wellington.govt.nz/~/media/maps/files/tekopahou.pdf for a map and brochure
The well-graded track keeps its height until it reaches the trig at Te Kopahou (485 metres) after 40 minutes. The surface then deteriorates and drops steeply to the saddle at the junction with the Waipapa Loop Track (45 minutes), which links to the Red Rocks Track.
Continue straight ahead. The track drops, very steeply at times, to the World War 2 observation posts bunkers (30 minutes). You may need to zigzag to temper the gradient.
Te Kopahou Reserve lies to the south-west of the city. It’s deeply dissected bulbous form is topped by Hawkins Hill (495 metres) and its substantial height is used by Meridian Energy for a wind turbine and Airways for an aircraft navigation station.
The rounded caps of the ridges drop sharply to deeply gouged valleys, with the main spurs truncated to triangular bluffs. The Wellington Fault runs through the reserve forming Long Gully, to the west of the main ridge. The reserve ends abruptly at the sea, with vertical cliffs tumbling to the numerous offshore reefs and rocks. These astoundingly sheer cliffs fall over 200 metres in a horizontal distance of only 300 metres. The Coastal Tracks to Red Rocks and Sinclair Head explores this rugged stretch of coast.
The location is unusual for its collection of flora. 159 indigenous species have been recorded on the hills with a high proportion classified as threatened.
The coastal zone exhibits flora that has evolved to suit Cook Straight’s unique conditions, with a mixture of coastal scrub, flax, tussock and scree. Deforestation has destabilised the slopes and frequent slumping occurs. Tauhinu, speargrass, coprosma propinqua and large leaf pohuehue colonise the scree. Unusually, the coastal cliff plant and invertebrate communities show similarities with South Island sub-alpine communities.
The main hill slopes were previously covered in tawa forest with large rimu and rata. On the slopes with higher exposure to salt laden gales, a smooth, wind resistant canopy of kohekohe, with a karaka, ngaio and titoki understorey would have prevailed.
Today, the main coloniser of the bare ground is the shrub tauhinu, which is not palatable to farm stock and is spray resistant. The associated gorse is a nitrogen fixer and helps establish better soils, although it takes longer for the native bush to overtop than bracken or tauhinu. Later an embryonic forest of manuka, kanuka, mahoe, five finger, coprosmas, hebe and broadleaf scrub will emerge.
On the windy tops, swards of native grasses, speargrass and silver tussock provide habitat for the rare flightless speargrass weevil, the common gecko and common skink. However since the introduction of goats in the early 1980s, the speargrass has been devoured by the voracious eaters with a commensurate decline in habitat for the invertebrate populations.
North Island ▷ Wellington Region ▷ Wellington
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