The Buller Gorge Swingbridge Adventure and Heritage Park


Korimako – Bellbird

The bell-like call differs from Tui with less guttural croaks. bellbirds will imitate other bird calls, and are often mistaken for Tui.

Pipipi – Brown Creeper

The maori name reflects the bird’s call -a brief warble ending with one note three times.

Piwakawaka – Fantail

Flitting around like a learner flyer, the fantail will most likely be expertly catching the insects you are disturbing, on the wing.

Titipounamu – Rifleman

If you spot a very small bird, constantly on the move, the chances are it will be a Rifleman, New Zealand’s smallest bird.

Toutouwai – South Island Robin

Perched on long legs, the Robin shows an interest in your every move. When walking, scuff the leaf litter under your feet and watch it feed.

Ngirungiru – Tomtit

The South Island Tomtit has a yellow-tinted breast which varies in colour, and a distinctly black head with white chevrons on its wings.


Tui have a more mellifluous note than a Bellbird. Listen for squeaky notes, then a burst of guttural croaks followed by fluid and bell-like tones.

Riroriro – Grey Warbler

Riroriro issue a pleasant, delicate warbling song which ends abruptly after a few undulating bars.


Alongside the development of the visitor attractions at the Buller Gorge Swingbridge, we have undertaken an extensive trapping programme designed to eradicate pest species that compete with the native flora and fauna. The main targets are rats, stoats, ferrets, mice. Hunters visit the property after dark once the visitors have gone and hunt lagers pest species, mostly feral goats and pigs. Wasps are a major problem throughout much of New Zealand during the summer months, so we have placed 200 bait stations specifically targeted at wasps.  Using a protein-based wasp poison we are making great inroads into the wasp populations. 


Kahikatea – White Pine (Dacrycarpus dacryioides)

Kahikatea is New Zealand’s tallest tree species, reaching 60 metres in height. It takes at least 200 years for a Kahikatea to reach “giant” status, and its typical site is valley floor floodplains.

Kahikatea was a popular timber tree in the1800s and early 1900s. The tree provided timber for butter, cheese and apple boxes because it had no resin to taint the precious commodities; it is now reduced to about 2% of its pre-Europeean forest cover.

Matai – Black Pine (Prumnopitys taxifolia)

Matai rarely grow over 25 metres in height. Although similar to Miro, Matai is best distinguished by close observation of its leaves, or by its mature bark which is grey-brown and flakes off in rounded chunksrevealing reddish blotches.

Matai has small blue/black edible fruits, if your eye can detect them! Matai is prized for flooring.

Miro – Brown Pine (Prumnopitys ferruginea)

Like Matai the bark is “hammered” but reveals brownish blotches when it sheds, not reddish blotches. Just to add to the confusion of detail, Miro has reddish/purple fruit.

Maori have utilised all parts of the tree for medicinal purposes. Harvesting called for considerable climbing skills as the best crops came from mature trees.

Piupiu – Crown Fern (Blechnum discolor)

Crown ferns growing along the trackof Buller Gorge Swingbridge Adventure and Heritage Park are magnificant examples. A feature is the fish-bone shaped sterile fronds – it often looks as if two seperate plants are growing from the same base.

Maori boiled the leaves and ate them as greens; birds cooked in the hangi were wrapped in the leaves.

Rimu – Red Pine (Dacrydium cupressinum)

Rimu sometimes equals the height of Kahikatea and commonly lives for up to 600 years. It is easy to distinguish by its drooping foliage which does not change in general appearance except to fade and from the very bright green of youth to the more subdued green of maturity.

The red, fleshy fruit is edible, but produced only about every 5 years. maori knew of many medicinces that could be extracted from the resin-rich leaves and bark. The first beer in new Zealand was brewed from its leaves by Captian James Cook.

Totara (Podocarpus totora)

The slow growing Totara reaches about 30 metres at maturity, which can take 900 years! As a seedling the leaves look a little like Matai but are much harsher to the touch and will spike you.

The light yet durable timber had many uses for Maori. This rakau rangatira (chiefly tree) was reserved mostly for whaka (war canoes) and carvings. European settlers used it for bridges, railway sleepers, wharves and in house construction.

Rehabilitation of the forest

From the 1950s to the 1980s the land on the other side of the Buller Gorge Swingbridge had consistently been burnt off as was the popular means of controlling vegetation especially gorse, broom and blackberry. Current forest restoration techniques tend to leave these species to form a nursery cover which should in theory let the natives trees come through. While this has occurred in some places the blackberry especially has got so well established it is impossible for other natives to break through. We are currently undertaking some trials to see what is the best method of removing blackberry.