Scenic reserves are New Zealand’s most common, and probably most widespread, protected areas. They were first created when communities wanted to retain some original vegetation in an otherwise modified landscape. Most scenic reserves are attractive patches of bush, often close to roads. They vary in size – many are less than 100 hectares, but some are more than 1,000 hectares. Outstanding forested scenic reserves include Gray’s Bush near Gisborne, Boundary Stream and Ball’s Clearing in Hawke’s Bay, and Carter Scenic Reserve in the Wairarapa. These are all islands of unspoilt nature in a sea of farmland.
Volunteers play an important role in Kawau Island Historic Reserve, tending the palatial house and Italianate garden of 19th-century governor George Grey. Grey was a keen collector of plants and animals, and his gardens included olives, cork trees, spider lilies, loquats, custard apples, almonds, pineapples and cinnamon. He also introduced exotic animals, and the island is still home to peacocks, wallabies and kookaburras – but the zebras and monkeys are gone.
Historic reserves protect places, objects, and natural features of historic, archaeological, cultural or educational interest. They are often quite small (1–10 hectares). Two well-known Northland examples are Ruapekapeka pā, the site of a significant battle in 1846, and Pompallier House, an early Catholic mission at Russell. The Second World War fortifications at Stony Batter on Waiheke Island and the old wooden Government Buildings in Wellington are also much visited.
Sometimes neighbouring historic reserves are related – for instance, those associated with the Otago gold rushes, including the St Bathans Post Office and the former diggings at Gabriels Gully.
Recreation, government and local purpose reserves
Recreation reserves are found throughout New Zealand. There are 2,842, covering a total of 255,750 hectares. Many provide public access to coastlines, lakes and rivers. Most are small (1–100 hectares), but a few are very large. They include Te Paki in Northland, which comprises nearly 19,000 hectares of New Zealand’s finest coastal landscape, and Pūponga Farm Park at the mainland end of Farewell Spit. Pelorus Bridge and the many recreation reserves of the Marlborough Sounds are well known, as are Five Mile, Whakaipo, and other reserves around the shores of Lake Taupō.
Government purpose reserves
Government purpose reserves are a mixed bag – some are important wetlands, while others are small areas of land around lighthouses.
Local purpose reserves
Local purpose reserves are usually small. Most are domains, road reserves, and land around public halls and cemeteries in rural areas. Local authorities are usually responsible for their day-to-day management.
Stewardship areas are the second largest type of conservation land after national parks, and together cover more than 2.6 million hectares. They are generally large natural areas (100–10,000 hectares) in New Zealand’s back country. Stewardship areas are not formally identified as important for biodiversity conservation or recreation.
However, some have very high conservation value. For example, North Island brown kiwi are found in Tongariro Forest Conservation Area, and Māpara Forest Conservation Area in the King Country has a large population of North Island kōkako.