Today, I’m sharing with you a great tale of hope and rebirth. This is the story of the Hinewai Nature Reserve in New Zealand. The Reserve is privately owned and managed by the Maurice White Native Forest Trust. In 1987, the reserve’s manager, botanist Hugh Wilson, got a crazy idea. He wanted to let gorse – a sun-loving weed despised by the rural community – form a temporary ‘nurse’ canopy to give shade-tolerant plants something under which to grow. The idea was met with plenty of resistance, including fury from local farmers who worried that the weed would prove to be invasive. Wilson was called a ‘fool and a dreamer.’ But even though everyone thought he was crazy, Wilson’s plan worked. Now, more than 30 years later, the nature preserve has been reforested. The Hinewai Nature Reserve is now populated by a wide range of native plants, including hardwood trees like red beech, fuchsia, māhoe, and ribbonwood, lower-growing plants and grasses like broom, bracken, mosses, liverworts, lichens, and more than 60 species of fern, including six species of tree fern.
“The primary aim is to foster the natural regeneration of native vegetation and wildlife. We operate under a management strategy of minimal interference — that is, we allow natural succession to run its course towards a vegetation cover (nearly all forest) similar to that prevailing before the forest clearance by human settlers, first partly by Polynesian settlers from about 700 years ago, second and nearly completely by European settlers from around 1850 onwards. We remove alien elements that seriously impede the re-establishment of native flora and fauna — that is a few highly invasive and competitive exotic trees and vines and a few seriously deleterious animals, provided that their removal is practical. Otherwise we leave things alone. For example, exotic gorse is a hated weed of pastoral farming but is tolerated on Hinewai because it serves as a highly effective temporary nurse canopy for native regeneration.”– About Hinewai
These days, Wilson is considered a local and national hero. He continues to oversee the more than 1500 hectares of native forest, which has once again become home to a wide range of birds and other wildlife. With all that glorious returned nature (and 45+ waterfalls), the Reserve is understandably popular with the public.
You can check out the Hinewai Nature Reserve on its website.