Land in Wairoa Gorge in Nelson Tasman region that contains forest of high ecological value and an internationally-renowned mountain bike park has been gifted to the people of New Zealand.
The 860ha of land has been gifted by RHL NZ Ltd, a company owned by international investor Ken Dart, and it has been transferred to the Department of Conservation.
The Nelson Mountain Bike Club will continue to operate the mountain bike park as it has done for the past three years under a 40-year lease that has transferred with the land.
A Wairoa Charitable Trust is being appointed to control and manage the land which has become a recreation reserve. The trust, together with the Nelson Mountain Bike Club, will manage the reserve.
“This Wairoa Gorge land has impressive natural and recreational features and is mostly surrounded by Mt Richmond Forest Park,” said DOC’s northern South Island operations director Roy Grose. “About 560ha of the land is covered in native forest with almost 390ha of that assessed as having high regional ecological significance.
“The mountain bike park, built to international standards, is highly valued by New Zealanders and overseas visitors, many of whom come to New Zealand specifically to ride its tracks.
“The arrangements for management of the land mean people can continue to enjoy its excellent mountain biking and its beautiful natural environment.”
Paul Jennings from the Nelson Mountain Bike Club said: “Wairoa Gorge is renowned as one of the best places in the world to ride a mountain bike – its natural beauty, accessibility and the incredible trail network that has been created there is unique and very special.
“Nelson Mountain Bike Club has had the pleasure of working with the owners of Wairoa Gorge over the past three years to enable access for mountain bikers and we are very excited to be given the opportunity to continue that work alongside DOC and the reserve Trust.”
The Left Branch of the Wairoa River runs through the land. Beech-dominated forest covers much of the area with some matai-rich forest and some other podocarp species. Its native forest is of significance in the Nelson Tasman region and the land contains 93 different native plant species, including some that are not common elsewhere on this western side of Mt Richmond Forest Park and its surrounding areas.
Birdlife in the area includes tūī, korimako/bellbird, kereru, kōtare/kingfisher kārearea/native falcon, ruru/morepork, weka, toutouwai/robin and pīpīwharauroa /shining cuckoo.