A Gateway Into Gondwana

Kahurangi National Park

Image © Kathrin and Stefan Marks

A Gateway Into Gondwana

Kahurangi National Park is the country’s second largest national park. It was established in 1996 and is 4520km2 in area. Its pristine forest remains a place where the presence of ancient Gondwanaland and its magical birdlife can still be sensed. But extinct species like the giant moa, the largest ever land bird, and the enormous Haast’s Eagle, with its 3m wingspan, are not pre-human creatures fossilized in the landscape. Instead they are recent bygones, who as little as 600 years ago lived in the forests of Kahurangi alongside people. Today visitors can still see moa bones in the Honeycomb Caves. The Heaphy Track is one of the Great Walks of New Zealand and is where hikers may hear and even sometimes see the great spotted kiwi. Kahurangi is also home to more than half of New Zealand’s 2400 native plant species including more than 80% of its alpine varieties. The park’s flora is the most diverse of any national park in New Zealand, and includes 67 plant species found nowhere else in the world.


Outdoor Clubs and Conservation Groups

In the 1990s outdoor clubs and conservation groups drove the development of Kahurangi National Park so this large region of conservation land would be fully protected for its ecological values while also remaining available for recreation. Since its origin the park has been significantly expanded, incorporating more of the surrounding area within the park boundary.

Image © Julian Apse, Tourism New Zealand


Below the thick vegetation of the forest floor in Kahurangi National Park lies the Oparara Basin. The basin is a 35 million-year-old complex of limestone caves carved by the Oparara River. The caves have been a popular site for enthusiastic cavers who stumble across the bones of Moa and other extinct birds as they travel through the narrow passageways.

Image © Mick Abbott


The unfurling shape of the fern is known in Maori as a koru or spiral. This form found across nature represents new life, growth, strength, and peace. The koru is an important part of design in Maori expression and is often used in traditional tattooing and carving.

Images © Sid Mosdell (left), Shellie Evans (right)

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