Information about the Wakatipu Basin

Once upon a time the Wakatipu was home to a variety of native ecosystems including wetlands, greyshrublands, dryland woodlands, temperate rainforest and alpine shrubland.  We know this from piecing together information from:


  • buried pollen, charcoal, preserved seeds and leaves

  • moa and other bird bones, gizzard stones, coprolites (preserved faeces have evidence of twigs, leaf cuticles and seeds)

  • climate data from the past and soils matched with present knowledge of specific plant growth requirements

  • carbon dating

  • early accounts and records

  • present remnants

Hills and Mountain Slopes

The hills and mountain slopes were predominantly beech forest with a shrubby upper edge and tall snow tussock grassland leading into herbfields above.Numerous mountain totara logs can still be found across the lower slopes of the Remarkables and small remnants of mountain beech can be seen right up to the original line.

Lake Shore

On the lakeshore there was much greater diversity including beech forest and many other tree and shrub species, grasses, ferns, mosses, lichen and fungi and herbs along with prolific birdlife, insects, lizards and probably bats.

Basin Floor

On the Basin floor there was probably a mosaic of grassland on shallow soils with numberous wetlands in hollows, grey shrubland and associated herbs and grasses predominating with low forest and some beech in sheltered gullies, on scarps and around the larger water bodies.

Scarps and Bluffs

On the scarps and bluffs were kowhai, mountain totara, tree daisies, coprosmas and other shrubs and small trees such as broadleaf, mapou and mountain toatoa.

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Watch this clip about native falcons and how important woodlands and shrublands are to their survival. It’s presented by local legend Barry Lawrence, sadly no longer with us, but we love that Barry’s amazing work can continue.

Planting and Species Guides

The Wakatipu Reforestation Trust has published a practical guide to planting natives in the Wakatipu Basin. This booklet is available to download below for free, or you can make a $10 donation to receive a hard copy from at the following locations:

  • Shotover Garden Centre

  • Arrowtown Museum

  • Queenstown DOC Visitor Centre

  • Remarkables Market

  • Jean Malpas Community Nursery (During the Wakatipu Reforestation Trust Wednesday Volunteer Sessions)

  • Wakatipu Reforestation Trust Public Planting Days (Spring and Autumn)

Educational Resources

These beautiful Plant Hunt Sheets are your companion for exploring various unique Ecosystems within the Wakatipu Basin.  They are available for you to download below.  How quickly can you find all of the plants on each sheet?: 

When rainy days keep you indoors, why not print out our unique Forest Illustration?  Suitable for little kids and big kids alike. 

Useful weblink

There is a plethora of useful information about Conservation out there. Below are a few weblink to other great websites and resources.

Environmental Groups in the Region

Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group

Routeburn Dart Wildlife Trust

Predator Free Arrowtown

Fiordland Conservation Trust

Community Native Nurseries in the Region

Te Kakano Aotearoa Trust - Wanaka

Southland Community Nursery - Invercargill

Clyde Railhead Community Nursery - Clyde

Commercial Native Nurseries in the Region

Pukerau Nursery - Pukerau, Gore

Matukituki Natives - Wanaka

Home Creek Nursery - Manapouri

National Programmes

Nature Space

New Zealand Plant Conservation Network

Forest and Bird

Nature Watch

Predator Free New Zealand

Project Crimson

Trees that Count

Educational Programmes

Paper 4 Trees

Trees for Survival


International Programmes

Biophilic Cities