White Pine Bush is located at Tangoio, 30kms (approx 20min drive) north of Napier on SH2 as you travel towards Wairoa. One of the first reserves set up in the area, the 19 hectares of remnant lowland podocarp forest features dominant Kahikatea stands and a grove of Nikau Palms you see today have survived centuries of land clearance.
Fire was used by the Maori (pre-european settlement) of the region to flush out prey and open up land for crops and settlement. Post European settlement the land clearance continued to make way for farm and pine/exotic forest plantation.
Kahikatea, a species only found in New Zealand, were known as “White Pine” until the mid 1900’s. They are a ‘swamp’ forest species and grow up to 60 meters and up to 2 meters across. Only about 2% of Kahikatea forest is thought to remain. This stand boasts some up to 800 years old.
Ongaonga (a giant stinging nettle that grows up to 3 meters!) is the exclusive food of the caterpillar of the red admiral butterfly. Watch out for them while completing this walk as a bad sting can be extremely painful and cause dizziness for up to three days.
We arrive about 9am on this overcast Friday morning. I’m less than impressed with the weather. The east coast is known for its lovely sunny climate but we get chill overcast fogginess and I pull on a jacket to cut out the wind.
There are two main walking tracks, a 30 minute loop with another loop taking the walk to 1 hour. The 30 minute loop is described as ‘sealed’ which is most certainly is not, however it does appear to be suitable for wheelchair access (although this could get muddy when wet), while both tracks are suitable for most ability levels.
The walk is easy and the path is fairly well kept though a few parts were more overgrown than I’m used to seeing. A lot of the 30 minute track is on boardwalks and there are picnic tables under the trees in a clearing at about the midpoint. This is also where the second track loops in from. The paths are well signposted with lots of information regarding the native plants and birds in the area, a quick history of the reserve and geological information.
The track follows and crosses a small freshwater stream where we spent a couple of minutes unsuccessfully trying to spot some eels. We did have a kereru (New Zealand Native Pigeon) fly overhead and land on a branch quite close by and watch us wander past.
From the car park there appears to be usual access to bathroom facilities however this was closed due to low water levels during our visit (Hawkes Bay, Eastland and much of New Zealand was in drought conditions). Please also note that dogs and mountain bikes are not allowed.