Course:FRST370/2022/Restoration on Banks Peninsula, New Zealand’s Hinewai Reserve: Displaying local communities’ efforts to rehabilitate native forests and reconnect with the land

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This case study explores the Hinewai Forest Reserve on Banks Peninsula, New Zealand, focusing on the local ecology, regional history, and area stakeholders. Banks Peninsula was historically Māori territory before the arrival of European colonists, who denuded most of the native forests. Today only two percent of the original forests remain. The Hinewai Forest Reserve, along with its caretaker Hugh Wilson are working to restore these Indigenous forests and ecosystems. With mostly a hands off approach, under Wilson’s stewardship, the reserve has been slowly renewing its traditional ecosystems. The reserve is a successful project in the field of conservation, but its static approach and private ownership means it has flaws. We recommend a greater involvement with Māori stakeholders, as the reserve has not worked to integrate them into the project or involve them in the decision making. We also believe that Hinewai would be well served to create a more in-depth plan for climate change.

Theme: Community Forestry
Country: New Zealand

This conservation resource was created by Lauren Snow, Max Garvey, and Milo Theis.
It is shared under a CC-BY 4.0.


Banks Peninsula, Reforestation, minimal interference, Hinewai Reserve, Treaty of Waitangi.


Jules Knob lookout on Hinewai Reserve, located on Banks Peninsula, New Zealand.

Hinewai reserve is a privately owned and managed reserve located on Banks Peninsula, New Zealand, on the peninsula's southeast corner. [1] The Reserve’s closest city is Akaroa, and it is located just 100 km from Christchurch. [1] Hinewai reserve land includes the subalpine top of a hill referred to as Taraterehu by the Māori, which means misty peak, and in English, Stony Bay Peak, as well as land just a kilometer above sea level. [1]

Christchurch businessman Maurice White began what is now referred to as the Maurice White Native Forest Trust in 1977 to purchase land for conservation purposes on Banks Peninsula.[1] The original reserve comprised 109 ha of land mostly deemed non-economical for farming, and now spans 1,250 ha, making it the largest.[1] Maurice White and Hugh Wilson, Hinewai Reserve’s Manager and Trustee, met in 1986 at a Forest and Bird meeting (a New Zealand-based NGO), and requested Wilson to be involved in his conservation project[1]. Wilson aided White in identifying what land to purchase, as Wilson had ecological background knowledge as a botanist he could pull from for prioritizing sites' conservation capabilities, while White just had a dream.[1] His dream was specifically to establish native forest for native bird species to thrive.[1]

Sign on Hinewai reserve requesting visitors do not damage ferns.

The primary objective of the Hinewai reserve project was to manage the remaining forests on the land in a way that was grounded in ecological knowledge, with an awareness of anthropological history that influenced local ecology, to steer the land in the direction of healthy, native old-growth forest that once covered Banks Peninsula prior to human contact.[1] It is critical to note plans did not include reforesting the area manually, rather, management of Hinewai included removal of deleterious invasive species decelerating natural successional pathways from being followed, and working around the ecology of invasive species (predominantly Gorse (Ulex europaeus)) to ensure the goal of increasing forest cover becomes fruitful.[1]

Hinewai reserve functions like a miniature national park, primarily focused on conservation, with a secondary goal of functioning for public use.[1] Hinewai reserve encourages and enables the public to engage with nature. For instance, some pathways and trails begin right at the edge of the suburban sprawl.[1] There are approximately 20 km of trails, and the reserve boasts an annual visitor count of around 6000 people.[1]


Local Ecology

Red beech (Nothofagus fusca) individual from the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Most of the old-growth left on Hinewai reserve is of this species.

Hinewai has been regarded as a "growing treasure-store of native biodiversity", and boasts a total of 327 native plant species, and notably 60 species of ferns.[2][3] Pre-human vegetation cover for the land under Hinewai reserve was estimated to be 100% continuous forest, split into two categories: 55% podocarp and hardwood forest, and 45% beech (Nothofagus sp.) forest.[4] In 1994, old-growth forest cover was 4%, and consisted mostly of red beech forest on an isolated corner of the reserve.[2][4] The remaining 96% was a mosaic of varied successional stages; a product of anthropogenic activities.[4] 30% of that remaining large chunk of land was closed-canopy second-growth native forest, 53% of it was scrub of naturalized Gorse (Ulex europaeus) and Broom (Cytisus scoparius), and the remaining 13% was comprised of native tussock-land, fern-land, and pastoral area.[4]

Needles and bark of Podocarpus hallii (Podocarpus laetus, Podocarpus cunninghamii), Hinewai Reserve, Banks Peninsula, South Island, New Zealand. This tree species is endemic to NZ.

Podocarp regeneration dynamics in fragmented forests

  • Fertile seeds and young seedlings are found at normal rates in these forest stands, but very few are able to become established as young trees, causing a lack in recent regeneration.[5] Podocarps are shade intolerant, so a lack of canopy-opening disturbance has halted podocarp regeneration.[5]
  • Stands are even-aged, indicating the forest regenerated in unison in response to a disturbance.[5] One plausible disturbance is a period of heavy rainfall that caused floods 400 to 600 years ago.[5] The remaining old-growth forest stands are almost all found in alluvial soils within valley bottoms, revealing they have colonized flood deposits.[5]

Hardwood regeneration dynamics in fragmented forests

  • In contrast to the podocarps, the hardwoods of Banks Peninsula are very shade tolerant, and maintain consistent regeneration from beneath the canopy.[5] These hardwoods can regenerate well under thick Gorse cover and suffocate it of light after a few years.[5]
  • Hardwood species of different ages were distributed quite evenly in the remaining forest stands, showing consistent regeneration with or without disturbance.[5]
  • Examples of hardwood species are Kānuka, Fuchsia, Māhoe, the fivefingers (Pseudopanax arboreus and P. colensoi), Sevenfinger (Schefflera digitata) and Lemonwood (Pittosporum eugenioides).[1]

Forest regeneration dynamics

  • Hardwoods grow fast and form a canopy, and disturbances enable podocarps growing beneath to emerge later in the forest's life history; these two species are ultimately replaced by beech species, which live longer than the hardwood and podocarp species.[5][4] The remaining 4% of old-growth on Hinewai reserve is mostly comprised of red beech, and the long lifespan of beeches is responsible for this.[4]

Management Scheme

Management primarily aims to remove human-caused impediments that would interfere with natural regeneration of the native ecosystem. Such impediments are mainly introduced mammals and fire as a management tool. The reserve follows a minimum interference approach where vast tracts of former agricultural land are set aside to be regenerated on.[6] Nearly 40% of the former pasture land has been restored to early stages of native bush. Additionally, management permits the integration of naturalized species alongside native species; including naturalized species in all predicted successional pathways for Hinewai reserve.[4] A reinstatement of the full-range of ecosystem services historically present on Hinewai reserve is the goal of management, so removal of deleterious species that impede this goal is priority, rather than removing everything non-native even if it has a relatively neutral impact on Hinewai's native ecology.[4]

Daily management involves:

  • Removing gorse and broom from 10m boundary strips, following directions from the Noxious Plants Act of 1978.[4]
  • Establishing or maintaining foot track systems for visitors.[4]
  • Reducing populations of mammals like goats, sheep, possums, hares, and rabbits that were introduced by humans.[4]
  • Buffering the reserve against the dangers of fire with fire plants, ensuring there is easy water access and that some water remains in ponds for fire-fighters to draw from if needed.[4]
  • Monitoring for possible establishment of deleterious introduced plant species.[4]
  • Introduced plant species deemed not harmful are left alone outside of removal on boundaries and tracks.[4]

Integration of Gorse (Ulex europaeus) Into Management

Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

Farmers have tried to get rid of Gorse from the land by removing it manually or burning it, as it spreads quickly and renders land unusable for pasture or agriculture, but have been unsuccessful because Gorse grows best in a disturbed environment.[1] Also, gorse seeds remain in the soil even after the original Gorse plant dies after around 45 years, which made locals' efforts even less fruitful.[1] Hugh Wilson is taking advantage of the full-sun preference of Gorse in his management plan for Hinewai’s ecological succession planning.[1]

  1. Left undisturbed, Gorse grows vigorously for the first few years.[1]
  2. Growth slows thereafter, allowing the forest canopy to open up.[1]
  3. Gorse and broom require lots of sunlight, and cannot regenerate to significant, overgrown numbers in the shade of a forest canopy or the canopy they create when overgrown (paradoxically).[1]
  4. While Gorse overgrows for those first few years, shade-tolerant native species regenerate underneath in absence of faunal browsing[1]. Birds and wind enable the spread of these native species. Gorse is a nitrogen-fixer, and makes soil more fertile for native plants, specifically saplings, that grow under the Gorse brush.[1]
  5. The native saplings then grow over gorse and broom canopy that has aged a few years, and smother it of light.[1] The speed of this process is influenced by various factors, especially by faunal browsing, as well as native seed source proximity, topographical factors, altitude, rainfall amounts, and aspect.[1]
    Gorse (Ulex europaeus) being overtaken by native tree species on Hinewai reserve. Note the vast spread of Gorse over the landscape.

Gorse serving as a nurse canopy for understory native tree species’ saplings as a concept has had mixed reviews in the literature.[1] Wilson responds to skepticism of this scheme, noting criticisms were made without taking into account browning pressure as a variable influencing their observations of forest succession.[1] Locals, particularly farmers, have also been critical of Wilson's approach, Wilson comments "[locals] thought we were city greenies coming to try out a ridiculous notion of leaving gorse to regenerate into native forest. They thought it would not happen or it would take centuries”.[2] Nowadays, Wilson remarks that "there wouldn't be a farmer who doesn't support what Hinewai is doing".[7] Historically, natives growing under Gorse have been consumed by pastoral fauna, thus possible predicted forest successional pathways for Hinewai reserve have not been followed in absence of management.[1]

Successional Pathways of Hinewai Reserve

Successional pathways before management intervention

  1. Reverting to native Kānuka (Kunzea ericoides).[4] Kānuka refers to a tree known colloquially by settlers as “tea tree”. This plant can grow as a shrub or a tree, and is important to the Māori as a medicinal remedy.[4] It is spread via wind, and a lack of Kānuka cover on the landscape indicates that use of fire as a management tool has been absent.[4]
  2. Reverting to land dominated by non-native, fast establishing Gorse (Ulex europaeus), a vigorous shrub brought over by settlers.[4]

Future successional pathway

Vegetation cover was estimated for 50 years time with removal of human-caused impediments, and was estimated to be 95% second-growth native forest, 4% old-growth forest, and 1% tussock, shrub-land, and scrub found on bluffs.[4] For this 50 year timeline, much like the status of Hinewai in 1994, there is a mosaic of successional stages predicted to be present, though there is considerably higher amount of second-growth native forest estimated to be present in 50 years time.[4]

Considerations of possible future compositions

  • There is most notably a trend towards woody vegetation cover. Within 20 years time, according to land manager Hugh Wilson, woody vegetation will overtake pastoral land, which comprises only less than 10% of Hinewai Reserve, if it is not maintained.[4] “Rigorous” removal of browsing pressure is integral, in the view of Wilson, to reestablish native forest much quicker.[4]
  • In the absence of major disturbances, podocarps would not be able to regenerate at the rate of hardwoods, and their numbers would decrease as old-growth specimens died off.[5] Hardwood species would continue to regenerate at a consistent rate, and eventually increase to the point where they become the dominant species in Banks Peninsula forests.[5]
  • Human intervention could be used to create progressive canopy collapse, allowing podocarp species an opportunity to regenerate in their existing forests.[5] However, this would require alterations of cherished old growth forests, which would likely cause backlash from the public who have cultural attachments.[5]
  • There is potential for major disturbances on the island; New Zealand is threatened by volcanic and tectonic activity. For instance, the Christchurch earthquake of 2011 likely caused disturbances to the old-growth forest stands, enabling new podocarps to establish themselves. There is also potential for floods and fires, but these are less likely due to human precautions.

Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust and its 2050 Ecological Vision

The Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust (BPCT) is a non-profit charitable organization that engages with locals, agencies, runanga (Māori term for tribal council), and governmental sponsors to foster the proliferation and conservation of indigenous biodiversity, as well as sustainable land management, on Banks Peninsula, New Zealand through the establishment of covenants with their own management plans.[8] BPCT was established to support landowners, primarily farmers, in adopting ecological protection measures, and now encourages rural landowners to covenant old-growth forest and other ecologically significant portions of their land.[2] It is able to establish such covenants under the Reserves Act of 1977, and is the only non-governmental body that holds covenanting power.[2] In 2017, the BPCT established its '2050 Ecological Vision' for Banks Peninsula, where Hinewai reserve is situated, and all of the goals outlined are being followed by Hinewai reserve.[2] The main goals of the 2050 Ecological Vision are to protect and manage old-growth forests, manage interlink populations of marine and land species, increase ‘rare’ flora and fauna on Banks Peninsula, and eradicate ‘pest’ flora and fauna.[8]

The covenant system is a way of providing community members with full ownership of their land, while also providing the necessary guidance and support they need in order to accomplish their sustainability goals.[8] An important aspect to note within the covenant system, is that nearly all external costs that landowners and farmers may encounter when seeking ownership of their land is covered either by the Trust, or by external funding agency.[8]

  • Current operations are focused on the goals outlined in the “2050 Ecological Vision for Banks Peninsula” below.
  1. Old growth protection.[8]
  2. Protection of rare and endemic ecosystems.[8]
  3. Sustainable use and management of marine ecosystems.[8]
  4. Protection and management of regenerating forests.[8]
    • Four core indigenous forest areas each spanning over 1000 ha have been protected.[8]
    • These areas are mapped, under contract, and fenced with active management plans integrating community involvement in management.[8]
  5. Propagation of indigenous plant and crop species.[8]
    • Exemplified through the Port Saddle Restoration Project, an outreach project in which native tree species were planted with help from local school children.[8]
    • The project is a collaboration between the Trust, Lyttelton Port Company, Enviro Schools, local primary school children, and community members.[8]
  6. Protection of rare and common indigenous flora and fauna.[8]
  7. Reintroduction of locally extinct native species.[8]
  8. Removal of invasive and pest species.[8]

As of 2021, the majority of goal 4, the restoration of native forests, was facilitated by The Wildside, which is a long-term habitat restoration and predator control project spanning 13,500 ha in the southeastern Bays.[8] The Wildside is comprised of the Hinewai Reserve, private landowner covenants held with BPCT and QEII Trust, and adjacent Department of Conservation and Christchurch City Council reserves.[8] The Wildside worked with local groups and community members to actively manage and support the forested areas that were protected. As an example of the type of constructive community action taking place, the Wildside hosted the 2021 Wildside Wilding Pine Workshop which was run by four Peninsula land owners “to demonstrate different methods of weed tree control and to increase the community’s awareness of the wilding pine issue, and the significant risk they pose to both farming and conservation land on Banks Peninsula if left unmanaged.” [9]

History and Tenure Arrangements

Māori History and Tenure

Prior to the arrival of Eurpoean colonists, New Zealand was occupied by Polynesian settlers known as the Māori. In the 17th century, the Banks Peninsula was primarily settled by the Waitaha, Kāti Mamoe, and Ngāi Tahu tribes.[10]

Māori Impacts on Local Ecology

  • Māori cleared forests mainly using fire, removing ⅓ of old-growth forest on Banks Peninsula by the time European settlers arrived in the mid-1800s. A mosaic of tussockland, shrubland, and second-growth forest along the coasts, with old-growth inland, likely existed at time of the arrival of European settlers.[4]
  • It is likely that use of fire that removed forest covering Stony Bay Ridge enabled the spread of tussock and Dracophyllum (a shrub) from the bluffs.[4]
  • Coastal old-growth was removed on seaward boundaries of the reserve so the land could be used for fishing and other activities.[4]

Colonial History

Akaroa, New Zealand.

Francois Narbey claimed land in Otanerito Bay in the late 1850s, and cleared much of the old-growth forest from nearby Stony Bay Valley for conversion into pastureland.[4] Though some old-growth forest was maintained in the upper part of Otanerito and Stony Bay Valleys until 1880s, most likely. Mill operation began at Goughs Bay, and timber likely was sourced from forests on Hinewai reserve. Captain George Armstrong built a portable mill along Stony Bay Road, situated above Akaroa in the 1880s. Forest was claimed to have “magnificent timber, mostly beech” along the Stony Bay end of the forest, but was never milled due to an accidental fire that burnt down much of the forest.[4] By the mid 1880s, most of what is now held under Hinewai Reserve had been affected one way or another by the use of fire.

Akaroa was a busy whaling community at the time of early European settlement, and was the site of numerous massacres and oppression of the Māori people.[3] Today, walking tours and museums reflect on these events, and are led by native voices. Akaroa is a town on Banks Peninsula that holds the busiest port on the Peninsula. It has strong cultural ties to Germany and France, and is a popular tourist destination for New Zealanders, as well as international tourists arriving via cruise ships.[3]

Colonial Impacts on Local Ecology

Impacts on current forest regeneration

Banks peninsula has largely been converted into pastures for grazing animals. Between 1900 and 1930, pastoral land cover was at its maximum. Since 1930, gorse, broom, and bracken (Pteridium esculentum (Forster f.) Cockayne), Kānuka, and mixed native forest have taken over, despite efforts to recover some pasture land via burning, grazing, spraying, and bulldozing. The opportunity that was provided to shade intolerant podocarps in the form of open, sunny land was negated by introduced grazing animals. Cattle and sheep eliminated any new seedlings growing on cleared land. Banks peninsula hardwoods also are showing slower rates of regeneration compared to other parts of New Zealand, likely due to the scale of pastoral agriculture in this area. Logging by colonial settlers also has disrupted the natural disposition of the forests. Different podocarp species grow at different rates, and some were too small to be logged. Selective logging chose more of some species, and left others that were not yet mature, resulting in an imbalance of podocarp species compared to their natural organization.

Impacts on local fauna

The grassland settlement pattern established by colonizers was devastating to native flora and fauna populations.[3] Many endemic birds have been threatened or extirpated from the peninsula, and were of large cultural significance to both Indigenous peoples and the early European settlers.[3] Deforestation, as well as the introduction of non-native predators such as cats have crushed avian populations.[3] In response, a movement called ‘Predator Free New Zealand’ has been started with the goal of protecting native biodiversity by aiming to reduce populations of their predators, and their plans have been endorsed by the Prime Minister and local governments.[3]

Current Tenure and Administrative Arrangements

The Hinewai Reserve now spans 1,250 ha, and is privately owned by the Maurice White Forest Trust. The Purple Peak Curry Reserve, located next to Hinewai, spans 192 ha, and is owned by The New Zealand Native Forest Restoration Trust.[1] In total, these two privately owned reserves cover 1,500 ha of land on the peninsula, and are both under the management of Hugh Wilson and the Hinewai reserve staff.[1]

Affected Stakeholders

  • Hugh Wilson, Hinewai reserve's primary manager (right) and Maurice White (left), founder of the Maurice White Native Forest Trust and Hinewai reserve, celebrating Hinewai reserve's 30th birthday.
    Maurice White Native Forest Trust
    • Private owner and managing body of the park. The Trust founded the reserve in 1987 when it bought the area as farmland.
    • As the private owners, the Trust has complete power over the management and excludability of the reserve.
  • Hugh Wilson and the Hinewai management team
    • Wilson is the live-in manager of the reserve and day-to-day overseer of public relations.
    • Wilson was an original founder of the Hinewai reserve who approached Maurice White of the Maurice White Native Forest Trust with the proposal of a partnership in reestablishing native forest land.
    • Reserve management has nearly complete power over the operations of the reserve, though they still must answer to the owners of the land, the Maurice White Native Forest Trust.
  • Banks Peninsula community members
    • Business owner Tricia Hewlett, who lives and operates her art studio on the Hinewai reserve [11]. Hewlet’s business involves creating and selling artwork depicting the fauna found on the reserve, as well as hosting art classes in her residence.[12]
    • Numerous volunteers who have amassed years of service to the reserve. Volunteers lead public information walks, aid in conservation effects, and most often reside near the reserve and on the Peninsula.
  • Farmers of the Banks Peninsula
    • The Hinewai Reserve is situated directly alongside farmland that could be threatened if the native gorse grass escapes the boundaries of the reserve. This has been a source of conflict between farmers and Hinewai in the past. Despite these conflicts, the work of the Hinewai reserve to restore and protect the Peninsula’s waterways has had indirect positive effects on the quality of local farmland, and has created a more constructive relationship between the reserve and their neighboring farmers.[2]
    • Local farmers have no legal right to impact any operations of the Hinewai reserve. They simply exist as neighbors and community members who may or may not share the benefits of the Hinewai's land restoration projects.

Interested Stakeholders

  • Forest and Bird
    • A large non-governmental conservation organization based in New Zealand which is vehemently opposed to logging of native forests, and supports the native regeneration practices being undertaken on Hinewai reserve.[13]
    • Manager Hugh Wilson and founder Maurice White met at a Forest and Bird meeting.[2]
    • Forest and Bird is engaged financially in many conservation projects across New Zealand, and has aided in the conservation of one-third of New Zealand's land mass.[13]
    • Forest and Bird meetings are held across New Zealand, typically held on a monthly basis, and are open to anyone interested in conservation.[13]
  • Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust[9]
    • A conservation trust that aids residents of the Banks Peninsula in gaining private ownership of their land with the intent to begin a conservation management plan.
    • The Trust is dedicated to conserving and restoring the Banks Peninsula, and considers the Hinewai reserve a key element in reaching their goals.[9]
  • New Zealand Department of Conservation
    • The National Heritage Fund is overseen by the Minister of Conservation, and serves to fund and promote the protection of indigenous ecosystems.
    • The National Heritage Fund has donated land in the past to Hinewai reserve with the goal of increasing the size of protected native forests.[2]
  • New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme
    • A governmental organization that exists to help New Zealand meet the climate change management goals that they agreed to in the Paris Agreement. [14]
    • The Emissions trading Scheme provides carbon credits to the Hinewai reserve as a result of their forest regeneration efforts.[2]
  • Christchurch City Council
    • The council is the presiding local government which operates a Biodiversity Fund to support conservation projects centering native regeneration in the Banks Peninsula. [15]
  • Non-locals interested in Hinewai reserve
    • Many of Hinewai reserve's donors are non-locals who have heard about the conservation work being done on Hinewai, from online sources, as well as the from reading the bi-yearly newsletter written by Hinewai's manager Wilson, Pīpipi.[1]
    • Hinewai reserve is said to rely on public donations, and receives donations from individual donors anywhere from five dollars to amounts like $10,000.[1][16]
    • A 30-minute free to watch documentary on Hinewai reserve titled 'Fools & Dreamers: Regenerating a Native Forest' was created by Happen Films, which is led by New Zealand-based filmmakers Jordan Osmond and Antoinette Wilson.[17] Happen Films focuses on producing films that center around the building resilient communities and integration of local people into conservation work and other ecological initiatives.[17]

Pīpipi Newsletter

Pīpipi is a bi-yearly newsletter released by the Hinewai Forest Reserve detailing the weather, maintenance, and other happenings on the reserve. It is authored by Hugh Wilson with the assistance of volunteers and is available for free through the Hinewai website and subscriber network. Fifty-five editions have been released since the beginning of the project, and they are still hand written and illustrated by Wilson himself.[18] Approximately 1,700 newsletters are sent out to New Zealanders, as well as individuals in Australia, USA, Canada, Malaysia, and the UK.[1]

Māori Rights-Holders and Indigenous Reconciliation

Māori reconciliation and the Treaty of Waitangi

Māori protestors taking to the streets on Waitangi Day 2006.

The Treaty of Waitangi was presented to the Māori chiefs of Aotearoa by the British crown in 1840. The purpose was to provide settlers with the legal right to own land under the stewardship and chieftainship of Māori leaders.[19] However, there were two versions of the document signed; one in English by the settlers, and the other in Te reo by the Māori chiefs. Because of this translation gap, the crown was able to alter their version to favour the settlers without the Māori signees being aware.[20]

Following the signing of Waitangi, the British crown and growing settler communities began to weaponize the loose phrasing surrounding land stewardship within the english version of the Treaty. This provided the Crown with a way to legally justify their increasingly predatory and violent occupation of Māori territory. [21]

The effects of this intentional deception and subsequent colonization are still being felt in New Zealand today, and the Treaty of Waitangi is often referenced as the primary historical source for the oppression of Māori people. [22] Through this lens, Indigenous reconciliation in Aotearoa New Zealand relies heavily on the faithful adherence to the Treaty of Waitangi, wherein Māori tribes seek “the restoration of their lands, territories and resources and formal recognition of their mana (power and authority, including sovereignty).”[22]

Reconciliation, Stewardship, and Kaitiakitanga

Defining Kaitiakitanga

Kaitiakitanga is a Māori word in Te reo that does not hold a single definition, or single purpose across all aspects of Māori culture, though most uses retain the same core beliefs of:

  • Symbiotic relations between humans and the land
  • Spiritual connection between humans and the land
  • Reciprocity and obligation
  • Resource management
  • Land management plans that place equal value on the past, present, and future
  • Guardianship

Kaitiakitanga’s overarching concepts of sustainability have made it an attractive approach to non-Indigenous conservationists in New Zealand, particularly following the 1991 Resource Management Act.[23] However, credit for this change in perspective belongs to the Māori iwi (Te reo word meaning tribe) that have worked for centuries to preserve their culture and stewardship practices, not the federal government - that while moderately progressive in their efforts, have widely misinterpreted the complex system of relations that Kaitiakitanga entails. [24]

Kaitiakitanga was not conceived under the land ownership practices of New Zealand’s federal government, and cannot be fully applied within such a framework. Additionally, the colonial translations and interpretations of Indigenous life are often the loudest and most accessible to the wider public. This can unfortunately lead to a shallow and heavily biased understanding of Indigenous life in settler communities, resulting in further dilution and lack of respect for complex, cultural beliefs.

In New Zealand’s new age of conservation “kaitiakitanga has become almost locked into meaning simply “guardianship” without an understanding of (or in the case of the Crown, providing for) the wider obligations and rights it embraces.” [23]

Kaitiakitanga and Māori rights

Recognizing that their native practice of Kaitiakitanga is receiving attention and appropriation by the Crown, Māori communities have increasingly begun to use the concept of Kaitiakitanga to reestablish their rights to land ownership and sovereignty.[23] The theory follows that if benefactors of the Crown can recognize and implement Māori beliefs, then they can also recognize the people who conceived these beliefs, and deliver them the rightful land stewardship that Kaitiakitanga entails.

Māori land and the Hinewai reserve

There are numerous Māori iwi that reside as the Indigenous rights-holders of the Banks Peninsula including but not limited to Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Māmoe. As such, the Hinewai reserve is located on colonized, traditional, and ancestral Māori land.

The Hinewai reserve's primary management goal involves restoring this ancestral Māori land to its pre-colonial state while reintroducing native species. Hugh Wilson, who is the live-in manager of the reserve is taking inspiration and guidance from the precedent that Māori iwi set through Kaitiakitanga to reach these goals. Wilson is not Māori, but is a self-professed scholar and follower of Māori land stewardship beliefs, and is widely referred to as the kaitiaki (Te reo word that roughly translates to guardian) of the Hinewai reserve.[25]

"When people ask who owns this land, I say, 'Actually no-one owns it, the land owns us'." - Hugh Wilson, 2019.[25]

In the interest of forest conservation, Hinewai and Wilson are making meaningful progress, but to say that they are truly following the guidance of Kaitiakitanga may be misleading. The spiritual and ancestral connection between Māori people and their land are a primary aspect of Kaitiakitanga, it is far more than forest conservation and sustainability. Claiming to follow the guidance of Kaitiakitanga without placing significant value on the autonomy of Māori iwi would be to dangerously appropriate the concept and further disrespect its historically oppressed founders.

"This is private land to which the public are welcome by invitation, not as of right. Should there be a significant conflict between public visitation and conservation goals, the public could be excluded. Conservation is always the top priority here." - Hinewai Reserve, 2022[9]

Hinewai is actively fostering native forest, and it is open to the public, yet it does still retain the legal right to remove Māori iwi from their ancestral land, an exclusion that only furthers Māori oppression under colonization. It may be the case that Hinewai is a success in terms of restoration, but it has much ground to cover when establishing its role in Indigenous reconciliation.

Assessment of Relative Power

Affected and Interested Stakeholders

As the private owners of the Hinewai reserve, the Maurice White Native Forest Trust maintains total, unrestricted influence of the land use decisions within the reserve. The power of the Trust, however, is limited by the level of support they receive from both outside donors, the community of the Banks Peninsula, and the New Zealand federal government through carbon credits.[2]

One of the blocks of land on Marie Haley's farm that was protected under the Hayley Fence project[15]

In terms of the community, the reserve relies heavily on the time and effort put in by local volunteers and outside benefactors who are willing to contribute either monetarily or through other forms of labor and capital. These volunteers and community members hold a relatively small degree of influence over the reserve as many of them are not considered employees, though the importance of their donated time and direct interaction with the land is extremely high. The reserve would not be operating at the level it does today without input from its volunteers.

The cooperation of the Peninsula's farmers is also important as many of the management decisions made by farmers will have an effect on the ecosystem that they share with the reserve.

An example of this relationship with farmers can be observed in the Hayley Fence project that was conducted on farmer Marie Haley’s property in Goughs bay, an area of the Peninsula directly adjacent to the Hinewai reserve. The goal of the Hayley Fence project was to fence in and protect gullies with the intention of protecting native fish species, as well as the understory plant species that grow near water sources.[15] Conservation efforts such as this alleviate and bolster the long-term work of the Hinewai reserve by promoting regeneration outside of the reaches of the reserve’s jurisdiction.

Farmers may not hold any influence within the reserve, but the importance of their management decisions on the land they share with the reserve is very high, and a primary reason that Hinewai works to maintain cordial relations with its neighbors.

Turning to a governmental lens, the Christchurch City Council holds a similar degree of indirect power over the reserve. The Council’s Biodiversity Fund has been a large contributor to projects such as Hayley Fence[15], and without the Council’s interest and investment in local conservation efforts, the Hinewai reserve would be facing a much steeper battle in their fight to restore the Peninsula.

The importance of the New Zealand government within the Hinewai reserve is especially high, despite its role as an interested stakeholder. The carbon credits that the government provides Hinewai through the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme have become an important source of income, as Hinewai is able to sell these credits to other businesses above market price.[2] These funds have gone a long way in increasing resources available to reserve management.

Māori Rights-holders

As discussed previously, Māori beliefs and land stewardship practices are not completely absent from the Hinewai reserve, but Māori people themselves have yet to receive any form of tangible power over their land in this case.

If importance is to be defined as ‘degree of care’, then one may say that the Māori people do maintain importance over the Banks Peninsula, as they care for and value all reaches of their ancestral and rightfully governed land. However, they are still deprived of the legal right to exercise any of this care unless they receive express permission from the reserve, or approach the reserve as volunteers or sponsors. This relationship does not translate to a place of power as either supporters or opposers of the Hinewai reserve’s operations.


The Hinewai reserve has successfully fostered the growing culture of conservation on Banks Peninsula, and become not only a champion of native forest restoration, but an active party in community empowerment. The reserve has cultivated lucrative relationships with both local and federal governments and welcomed community members into its operations as benefactors of the native forest as volunteers or students. The also learn land management techniques as well as navigating the precarious relationship with neighboring farmers whose values regarding land use may not fully align with the reserve's. This resulting network of support and symbiosis is not immune to criticism, however, as Māori rights-holders and the larger concept of Indigenous reconciliation remain largely absent from the reserve's publicly stated goals regarding their management of settled land.

Much of the land that makes up Hinewai reserve has been damaged from anthropogenic land conversions. Grazing by non-native species, including goat (Capra hircus), cattle (Bos taurus), sheep (Ovis aries) as well as by European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), and hare (Lepus europaeus) dramatically altered historical vegetation cover. Around the time of the establishment of Hinewai reserve, rural farmers were experiencing economic hardship, as there was a mass removal of farm subsidies and the whole rural sector of New Zealand was in economic decline.[2] Resources for upkeep of land became sparse, and slashing and spraying of species like Gorse and Kānuka generally ceased on lands not deemed valuable for agriculture.[2] Land on Hinewai reserve is an example of this; it was deemed rundown and uneconomic by farmers in the area.[2] In the future there may be more land available for conservation as farmers deem certain portions of land too costly to upkeep, which could be a possible source of land acquisition for conservation under Hinewai reserve. The formation of Hinewai reserve and its subsequent success has created a market for farmers to sell their marginal land, and these funds can be funneled back into farming practices or be put towards the farmers themselves.[2] Reserve manager Hugh Wilson is currently undergoing discussions surrounding purchasing a piece of land that begins from the lowest elevation portion of Hinewai reserve to the sea. This purchase would be funded primarily by finances gained through the carbon credit program Hinewai reserve is enrolled in, the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme. Wilson claims this purchase would be a "perfect way of using carbon credits" because more land conserved means more carbon sequestered.

We agree with these notions, but wonder if this purchase would be the most efficient use of Hinewai's funds. Furthermore, we wonder if ecological and economic analysis has been done for other areas that may be purchased, as coastal lands are typically less productive at sequestering carbon, as opposed to forested lands which have higher net productivity. We are also concerned that this land and its ecosystems may be severely damaged or even eliminated in the future due to climate change, which is predicted to cause sea level rise and a greater frequency and intensity of storms that can lay waste to coastal land with severe storm surges. Additionally, climate change may decrease historical natural colonization rates in unforeseeable ways. For instance, many native bird species serve as important agents of natural colonization in on Banks Peninsula, and conservation of their habitat is critical to their preservation and proliferation. The extent of future habitat loss from circumstances like severe storms is unpredictable, and such habitat loss may drive these species to population levels too low to maintain historical rates of natural colonization.

Reserve manager Hugh Wilson is staunchly against planting of native flora as a management tool, as he feels planting is not necessary for ecological restoration on Hinewai reserve, as he feels natural colonization is ample enough to not warrant the allocation of funds and manpower towards planting.[1] Wilson identifies that planting may be useful on other sites on Banks Peninsula where natural colonization is less robust, and we wonder if sites identified as potential purchases to be included in Hinewai reserve have ample colonization like the rest of Hinewai. Planting is being done in nearby areas, for instance, there is a planting restoration project Wilson identifies as "very successful" being done. This project is named Te Kākahu Kahukura, and is a collaborative effort between landowners, and various agencies and organizations that seeks to regenerate native forests, similar to Hinewai Reserve.[2] The project extends from land on Banks Peninsula itself to a nearby island, Ōtamahua Quail Island, and is coordinated by the Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust and apart of BPCT's 2050 Ecological Vision.[2] A key difference between Te Kākahu Kahukura and Hinewai reserve, besides differences in use of planting as restoration tool, is that Te Kākahu Kahukura implores locals to plant native species and engage in pest and weed control themselves, on their own land.[2] These efforts, though done individually on residents' own land, enable corridors for native flora and fauna to move along the landscape.[2] These bits of land can serve as habitat for important bird species, or seed-sources for native tree species, aiding in the project's main goal of forest regeneration.[2] While Hinewai reserve encourages locals to engage with nature through its extensive trails within the reserve, they do not actively encourage and engage with surrounding landowners to engage in conservation on their own land like efforts being done with the Te Kākahu Kahukura project.

Despite these remarks, Hinewai reserve is an exemplar for private conservation of land, and how such efforts can generate income through integration of people into the landscape, as well as joining into a carbon credit program.[2] Furthermore, the success of Wilson's hands-off approach reveals that landscape-scale conservation efforts might not need to put funds into seemingly useful, but unessential efforts like replanting native species everywhere they are desired, when managers can rely on the ecology of the native species to spread and regenerate themselves.

Critical Issues  

Climate change

An increase in wildfire frequency and intensity in areas susceptible to wildfire is a likely product of climate change globally. Forests on Hinewai reserve are susceptible to wildfire in the summer season, and summers have only gotten dryer with climate change. There was a very large wildfire in 2011 started by a lightning strike setting bush ablaze, and damaged over 400 ha of land, and made its way onto Hinewai reserve.[17][7] Wilson identified the damage caused by the fire as a setback, but remarks the land is "recovering remarkably well".[7] While the land was able to recover in this case, as native flora stocks nearby could replenish and recolonize newly burned land, if a future fire is very large it may be very difficult for natural regeneration processes to be as effective and timely without human intervention like planting. Furthermore, due to a severe storm season experienced by Banks Peninsula in December of 2022, mass flooding, collapsed roads, stranded houses and damaged infrastructure were reported by Banks Peninsula communities, as well as complaints stemming from the slow reaction time of the Christchurch City Council’s emergency response teams and restorative construction. [26] On the Hinewai reserve, land manager Hugh Wilson estimated that in the 2022 storm season, “65 hectares of Hinewai’s surface were laid bare".[27] The financial burden of recovery efforts lie solely on the reserve, and finding sufficient aid from the community and local governments that are similarly experiencing states of emergency is not guaranteed. Hugh Wilson claims the reserve "is over the hump of struggling for money", which is chiefly the result of numerous international donations, but climate change is anticipated to continue enabling events of mass ecological destruction like those experienced in 2022 which may drain the reserve's finances unpredictably and dramatically.[1]

Introduced species

Non-native species are apart of future successional models for Hinewai reserve, but some species in particular have been identified as problematic and in-need of removal.[7] Wilson has identified escaped deer as a current threat to biodiversity on Hinewai reserve, and future management will likely involve curtailing deer populations.[7] Sources of these deer are mainly those who have escaped from nearby farms and by hunters who irresponsibly release fallow deer.[7] These deer are so problematic because they are significant contributors to floral grazing, which has been identified as a critical roadblock in the regeneration of native forests.[4] Another problematic species is Monterey pine (Pinus radiata), whose seedlings spread onto Hinewai reserve from a neighboring pine plantation and can outcompete native softwoods, and is described as Hinewai's "worst weed" by Hugh Wilson.[2]


  • It is unlikely that there will be a great shift in land use in New Zealand in the near future. In order to support native bird species, greater efforts should be taken to improve the conditions found in exotic forests and pastoral farmland. This could be through planting native species intermittently along these sites, or perhaps creating networks of native forest to decrease fragmentation. Ultimately, we recommend planting or native species reintroduction should not be completely written off as a restoration tool.
  • Surveys identifying which portion of the land will be most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, like storm surge or extreme winds, should be completed as well if they are not being done already, to identify both where funds should be allocated for future land purchases, as well as to know where on the land funds should be allocated for climate change adaptation.
  • We recommend those involved in Hinewai reserve management and planning integrate the consideration that ecosystem services like natural colonization are achieved through complex, interwoven ecological systems that can unravel almost instantaneously from a major ecological disturbance into Hinewai's management plans. Identification of important agents of natural colonization, as well as other ecosystem services, and potential future threats such agents face in the wake of climate change would be beneficial to ensure ecosystem services and their benefits persist into the future.
  • Hinewai and its manager Hugh Wilson have spoken out in support of the traditional Māori practice of kaitiakitanga and its values towards sustainability, but have remained largely silent on the similarly inseparable concept of kaitiakitanga: Māori sovereignty and freedom from the bounds of colonization. Indigenous knowledge in the hands of non-Indigenous managers will always be a precarious arrangement, but with the recommended involvement and of consultation of Indigenous peoples, this appropriation may be undone.
  • A first step for the reserve to take if they were to pursue a more meaningful role in reconciliation could be to update their public profiles and accessible information to acknowledge the history of the land they steward. The reserve maintains a wide audience of conservationists worldwide, and if they were to use their platform to raise and hear from to Indigenous voices, they would be heard.
  • Looking forward, conservationists on Hinewai reserve should discuss possible solutions to their deer-problem with nearby farmers and hunters, perhaps suggesting farmers keep fence upkeep a top priority. Discussions with hunters should involve explaining the ecological importance of not releasing deer, and the effects doing so would have on native biodiversity, particularly charismatic species that people generally care more about.


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 1.23 1.24 1.25 1.26 1.27 1.28 1.29 1.30 1.31 1.32 1.33 Wilson, H.D., McDonald, T., & Lamb, D. (2017). "Forest regeneration on Hinewai Reserve, New Zealand: An interview with Hugh Wilson". Ecological Management and Restoration: 93, 94.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 Peart, R., Woodhouse, C. (2021). "Restoring Re Pātaka o Rākaihautū Banks Peninsula". Environmental Defence Society Incorporated.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Dominy, M.D. (2018). "Settler postcolonial ecologies and native species regeneration on Banks Peninsula, Aotearoa, New Zealand". Anthropological Forum. 28(1): 89–106.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 4.16 4.17 4.18 4.19 4.20 4.21 4.22 4.23 4.24 4.25 4.26 4.27 Wilson, H.D (1994). "Regeneration of native forest on Hinewai Reserve, Banks Peninsula". New Zealand Journal of Botany: 393.
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 Willems, N. (1999). Forest structure and regeneration dynamics of podocarp/hardwood forest fragments, Banks Peninsula, New Zealand (Publication No. 859) [Master’s thesis, Lincoln University].
  6. Wilson, H.D. (2003). "Nature not nurture; minimum interference management and forest restoration on Hinewai reserve, Banks Peninsula" (PDF). Canterbury Botanical Society Journal. 37: 25–41.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 Matthews, P. (2013, November 16). "Finding Sanctuary". The Press. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 8.11 8.12 8.13 8.14 8.15 8.16 8.17 Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust (2021). "2050 Ecological Vision for Banks Peninsula".
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust (2022). "Annual Report 2022".
  10. ChristchurchNZ (2022). "The rich history of Banks Peninsula".
  11. Hewlett, Tricia (n.d.). "Protecting our critters one drawing at a time". Tricia Hewlett Art.
  12. Hewlett, T. (no date) Tricia Hewlett Art.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Forest and Bird (2022). "About Forest and Bird". Forest and Bird New Zealand.
  14. Ministry for the Environment (2022). "About the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme".
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Environment Canterbury (2021). "Goughs Bay fantastic for conservation".
  16. Smith, T.; Lammers, C. (2011, May 12). "Hinewai Reserve; Orana park; 150 Reasons to Love Canterbury". The Press. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Wilson, A. & Osmond, J. (Directors). (2019). Fools & Dreamers: Regenerating a Native Forest [Film]. Happen Films.
  18. Wilson, Hugh (2022). "Newsletters".
  19. New Zealand Ministry of Justice (2020). "Treaty of Waitangi".
  20. Orange, C (2012). "Treaty of Waitangi - Dishonouring the treaty – 1860 to 1880".
  21. Mutu, M., Ngāti Kahu, Te Rarawa and Ngāti Whātua nations (2019). "To honour the treaty, we must first settle colonisation' (Moana Jackson 2015): the long road from colonial devastation to balance, peace and harmony". Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand. 49: 4–18.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Mutu, M (2018). "Behind the smoke and mirrors of the Treaty of Waitangi claims settlement process in New Zealand: no prospect for justice and reconciliation for Māori without constitutional transformation". Journal of Global Ethics. 14: 208–221.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Kawharu, M (2000). "Kaitiakitanga: A Maori Anthropological Perspective of the Maori Socio-environmental Ethic of Resource Management". The Journal of the Polynesian Society. 109(4): 349–370.
  24. Walker, E.; et al. (2019). "Kaitiakitanga, place and the Urban Restoration Agenda". New Zealand Journal of Ecology. 43(3): 1–8. Explicit use of et al. in: |first= (help)
  25. 25.0 25.1 Van Beynen, J (2019). "The kaitiaki who's spent over 30 years reforesting a Banks Peninsula Reserve". Stuff.
  26. Christchurch Reporter (2022). "Repair work for road into Banks Peninsula Bay could take two more months". Stuff Limited.
  27. Wilson, H.D. (2022). "Deluge. Pīpipi. 55th edn, May, pp. 1–2". Pīpipi.