True Wilderness

Fiordland National Park

Image © Laura Smetsers

True Wilderness

The grandeur of Fiordland captures the imagination of New Zealanders and visitors from overseas. It is the most wild place in New Zealand, and one wildest in the world. It is a landscape formed by the forces of water with large fiords carved out of the mountainsides through glacial action. As well as ice, Fiordland has been made by its heavy rains. Waterfalls appear at almost every turn with rainfall each year exceeding 7 meters at many locations. Its impenetrable and remote mountains rise directly up out of the ocean and take on an almost mythological quality. Maori lived there for seasonal food gathering, but was one of the few areas of the country they did not permanently inhabit. Fiordland National Park wraps around the southwest corner of the South Island of New Zealand, and at 12500km2 is New Zealand’s largest national park. The park was established in 1952 and is now part of the Te Waipounamu South West New Zealand World Heritage Area.



he Milford Track is regarded as one of the finest walks in the world. The track was established in the late nineteenth century and is now so popular that almost all available places are taken within minutes when bookings open for the season.

Frederick Mintaro Bailey Muir - Expedition party led by Quintin McKinnon, 1888 - Workmen standing on the track to Sutherland Falls, Milford Sound, circa

Richard Henry

In 1894 conservationist Richard Henry was appointed caretaker of Resolution Island after it was set aside by the government to be what was the world’s first eco-sanctuary. Henry focused on saving the precious kakapo parrot but ultimately could not bring it back from the brink of extinction. However Henry’s efforts were not wasted as his notes from Resolution Island on how to trap pests and care for kakapo became instrumental in assisting conservationists a century later as they worked to save the world’s last surviving kakapo.

Richard Henry, Resolution Island, 1900 -
Images © Hocken Library (left), Department of Conservation (right)

A ‘Scenic Wonderland’

Piopiotahi or Milford Sound is one of New Zealand’s scenic icons recognisable around the world. Every year one million visitors from New Zealand and abroad come to gaze across the water at majestic Mitre Peak. This scene has been painted and photographed countless times with every day thousands more images of Mitre Peak and Milford Sound captured.

William Hodges – Mitre Peak, Milford Sound, 1939 -
Image © Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa


Fiordland entered the national political spotlight when people across New Zealand protested a controversial proposal to raise Lake Manapouri so more hydro electrcity could be generated. The Save Manapouri Campaign of 1970 was so influential that it resulted in a change of government. Today hydroelectric power is still generated from Lake Manapouri but without altering the height of the level.

Ans Westra, Save Manapouri March 1970 - Images © Archives New Zealand (left), Michael Cross (right)

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