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Some massive trees, for which Pureora is noted.
The start of the track is signposted from Kakaho campground, where there are picnic tables and toilets.
Kakaho campground is 5.5 km from Western Bays Road and 26 km from Pureora Field Base.
The track emerges 200 metres further up from the campground.
From the bridge over the Kakaho Stream, the track enters the forest of lofty rimu. On the far side of the bridge there is a tree, which greets you like a sentinel. After crossing the second bridge the track climbs via step to a lookout platform in the tawa forest. The more gradual descent arrives back at the top of the campground.
There are a combination of factors contributing to Pureora’s uniqueness. The climate is superhumid, therefore there is low loss of moisture through evapotranspiration. The abundant rainfall nourishes a high species diversity in a localised area. Eight ash showers in the last 10,000 years have formed light, freely drained pumiceous loam soils, which can support high densities of vegetation. Volcanic activity has also levelled forests, creating new soil for vigorous recolonisation.
The podocarps are a family of trees, whose lineage stretches back over 200 million years. They evolved before the appearance of flowering plants and are distinguished by a succulent foot like appendage on the seed. The antiquity, complexity and grandeur of the Whirinaki Forest makes it virtually unique in the New Zealand and global contexts. Nowhere else is there such density of massive rimu, matai, miro, totara, northern rata and kahikatea. These species were flourishing on Gondwanaland, the supercontinent that existed as an amalgamation of today’s Southern hemisphere landmasses. Dinosaurs roamed through a forest with a very similar make up.
The primary canopy is complete, old and virtually closed. The foliage of the sub-canopy also shades the forest floor, so the interior is devoid of substantial seasonal fluctuations. Empires of epiphytes and twisted liana bejewel the branches and trunks of their hosts. The evergreen leaves and honey-green of the dominant tawa sub-canopy filter through a sublime light.
The altitudinal range of Pureora displays a textbook succession of forest types. Dense podocarp forest to gives way to medium density podocarp forest and hardwood species. At higher altitudes, mixed podocarp-beech then merges to beech forest at the tops of the hills.
Due to the inaccessibility of the high inland area, little permanent settlement has been noted. However they were highly prized hunting areas, mainly for moa.
The government of the 1970s decided this priceless forest should be logged for the short-term economic gains of a small community. The plans for destruction came as part of a wholesale policy to exploit the native timber resources of the entire country. Colin Moyle, the then Minister of Forests, proposed an international tender for logging, chipping and pulping of South Island beech forests. These ludicrous ideas prompted the Native Forests Action Council to submit a petition with 341,160 signatures to the government in 1976 – the largest petition New Zealand has ever witnessed. In 1978 Pureora Forest was saved from loggers by activists sitting in the branch clefts of similarly massive podocarps.
North Island ▷ Waikato ▷ Te Kuiti
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