The totara probably postdates pre-European fires but predates clearance and farming in the area.
Surviving extensive grazing by livestock since the mid-1800s, the forest was protected with a QEII covenant in 1989.
Covenants are usually fenced to exclude stock, allowing vegetation to regenerate and preventing browsing and trampling.
Initially it was decided it would be impractical to fence the gullies because of their steep grades and the erosion hazard of bulldozing the margins in the relatively unstable terrain.
In 1999, the landowners fenced the north-western gully and there is now regeneration of totara and palatable species such as mahoe, karamu, pate, five-finger, lancewood and Asplenium ferns in that area and in other sites inaccessible to livestock such as steep banks.
Left: In the north-western gully which was fenced some years ago, there is strong regrowth of seedlings including pate, karamu, five-finger, lancewood and totara plus regrowth from coppicing mahoe and red matipo root suckers.
Above: As a comparison in the north-eastern gully, with livestock having unrestricted access, the understorey has been stripped bare by browsing and trampling.
With this proof that the vegetation is capable of recovery, a post and waratah fence has now been constructed around the 1.5ha north-eastern gully with contributions from QEII, the Biodiversity Condition Fund, the landowners and fencing contractor, Murray Cooper from Cooper Farm Contracting.
Due to the steep topography and lack of vehicle access, all work was carried out by hand - preparing line, ferrying and laying out materials, digging posts and tie-backs, driving waratahs, pulling wires, straining up, and repairs following slips.
Murray says although the ground wasn’t as hard as for other jobs he’s done, terrain-wise the job was physically demanding because of the degree of steepness on the sidlings. Slips during the two big floods in winter also damaged the construction.
‘It was a challenge but the end result is good,’ he adds. ‘It’s lovely piece of bush that is now fenced off for posterity.’
Left: The fence under construction on a difficult fence line around a totara gully protected by a QEII covenant in Hurunui.
Above: A good, reliable post and waratah fence with one electric wire now protects the totara forest in the covenant from stock.
Now that livestock is excluded, the ecological sustainability of this very valuable forest ecosystem and associated fauna has been ensured.
All photos: Miles Giller
Open SpaceTM Magazine No. 74, November 2008 © QEII National Trust