Mahinga Kai

Mount Aspiring National Park

Image © Nathanael Coyne

Mahinga Kai

The 3555km2 Mount Aspiring National Park is a haven for native alpine plants and animals including the tiny threatened rock wren. The park is part of Te Wahipounamu South West New Zealand World Heritage Area and includes the remote Olivine Wilderness Area and the aptly named Red Hills, whose light orange tint stands out amid an otherwise grey mountain landscape. Lower down on its flat grassy areas contain a legacy of farming. Parts of New Zealand’s national parks are made up of areas that were previously leased by the government for pastoralism, but which through the tenure review process are being incorporated into the country’s protected areas. This scenario was the case for Mount Aspiring National Park, which is made up of both former and current farms. Small scale mining was also common before the park’s establishment with remnants of mining activity still visible around the park.


Food Gathering

Maori called Mount Aspiring Tititea, or glistening hills of white. This area, including the downstream river valleys, were traditionally important Mahinga Kai or food gathering sites.

John Gilfillan – A Maori camp with men cooking, circa 1860s - Image © National Library of New Zealand

Ecosystem Services

National parks are places that are protected in perpetuity for their outstanding natural and cultural heritage. Yet beyond tourism they also play other important roles in the country’s economy. Major rivers such as the Clutha have their source in Mount Aspiring National Park. The park’s mountains and valleys work as rain catchers and downstream, outside the park boundary, these waterways are utilized for hydroelectric power and irrigation for agriculture. Parks also are havens for biodiversity that can provide resilience to impacts arising from intensive agriculture.

Images © Shellie Evans

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