(Hamilton Junior Naturalist Club)
This is what I have found on file. If you are aware of anything else important, or any small detail we should know about, please contact Jenny W.
History of Te Kauri Park
Te Kauri Park Scenic Reserve is an almost pristine 1100ha remnant of once extensive forest linking the coastal region of Kawhia, 15km away, and the montane forests of Mount Pirongia. The Reserve is bisected by State Highway 31 and comprises the deeply dissected catchments of five streams.
The Park derives its name from New Zealand’s most spectacular tree which is present in large numbers in the Reserve. Te Kauri Park was established in 1962 with 41.5 acres donated by Douglas and Ngaire Anderson to the newly formed Hamilton Junior Naturalist Club (widely known as "Junats"). Te Kauri Park is now administered by the Department of Conservation, but management responsibilities are shared with the Junats based at their Te Kauri Lodge on freehold land in the centre of the Park.
The walking tracks in the Park are among the most attractive in the Waikato and they have a broad range of difficulty levels, from ‘easy’ to ‘ all-day tramp’. Visitor parking is available adjacent to the lodge.
Towering limestone bluffs capped with kanuka, tanekaha and kawaka and spectacular views, limestone and sandstone caves, pristine freshwater wetland (probably the best of its type in the Waikato) and clear forest streams with inanga and eels, two spectacular waterfalls, majestic kauris up to 400 years old, huge kahikatea and miro, five species of tree fern and the giant king fern, the world’s largest moss (Dawsonia), one of the most evolutionarily ancient fern-allies Tmesipteris, (fossils date back 200 million years - look for it today on tree-fern stems or kamahi trunks), several rare plant species, etc. Te Kauri Park is impressive and it is also biogeographically very important both regionally and nationally. For instance, this is the southernmost limit of naturally growing kauri in New Zealand and several other species achieve their geographical limits in or near Te Kauri Park. Because of the Junats involvement over the past 40 years, this Reserve is better studied than practically any other forest remnant in the Waikato.
Birdlife is now much diminished in the Park - kiwi and kokako have gone. There are still signs of kiwi burrows though none seem to be occupied. A kiwi call was thought to have been heard recently, but is thought to have been the call of the shining cuckoo. Still expect to see kingfisher, kereru, harrier and falcon, morepork, tui are common, as are bellbird, grey warbler and fantail, etc. Glow-worms are common in suitable places in the bush, so are many species of native land snail, and there are other rarities such as the peculiar blue peripatus ‘worm-insect’, luminous freshwater limpets, the veined slug and a shelled slug, the paua slug.
Pest control programmes have been under way in recent years in order to control goat, possum and rats. This is part of the restoration programme managed by the Te Kauri-Waikuku Trust.
Te Kauri Park is steeped in Maori history. Remains of kumara ‘gardens’ and shell middens have been identified with, and close to, the reserve and these are evidence that Maori travellers used to pass through here on journeys inland. The occasional coastal karaka tree also marks the route of the old Kaitinitini Trail to the King Country. A ‘fighting pa’ date from Te Rauparaha days is within the Park boundary and another is located on a bluff just outside the Park.
In the European era, timber mills were established near Oparau by 1910 and processed mainly rimu and kahikatea. Kauri trees have always been rare in the greater Oparau area (most occurring in Te Kauri Park), and only about 10 kauris were ever milled. When land around Te Kauri Park was broken in for farming in the 1940s, some timber (mainly miro and rimu) was removed by dray horses and skids from parts of what is now Reserve to enable development. The old skid lines can still be identified in the forest. However, many parts of the Park were too inaccessible for timber removal (such as the kauri stands), so there are many pristine areas.
In 1962, Douglas and Ngaire Anderson gifted 41.5 acres of prime forest to the Hamilton Junior Naturalist Club. An area close to the road consisting of blackberry and bracken-filled scrub was retained for the site of Te Kauri Lodge and ownership of the remaining forest land was passed to the then Department of Lands and Survey (since 1987 the Department of Conservation). Several additions were made in subsequent years and the most recent of these, 80 hectares, was bought with a substantial grant obtained by the Junats from the Forest Heritage Fund in 1991.