New Zealand Plants and their Story
From Management Plan to Action Plan
Boffa Miskell Ltd
Box 11 442, Wellington
Wellington owes much
of its character to its Town Belt a legacy of the early settlers.
It was set aside by the New Zealand Company in 1839 and held originally
by Central Government. Under the 1873 Deed, the Town Belt was conveyed
to the Wellington City Council for the "enjoyment of the public".
At first, the Town Belt
was simply an area of open space close to the city for people to
enjoy walking, picnicking and sightseeing. Over the years it has
undergone many changes. Between 1840 and 1940 more than one third
of the original 625 hectares was removed from the Town Belt with
the majority of this occurring while under the Crown's control.
Victoria University, parts of Kelburn and Vogeltown, Wellington
Hospital, Government House and Wellington College are all built
on land that was once part of the Town Belt.
As the city expanded,
parts were also taken for roads and public works. Since 1940 there
have been few encroachments. Land has, in fact, been recently added
to the Town Belt.
A significant part of
the Town Belt has also been developed for public and club recreational
facilities sports grounds, tennis and squash courts, golf
course, bowling and croquet greens, playgrounds and parks.
The native forest that
originally covered much of the Town Belt was cleared and until the
1920s the land was grazed. Consequently, much of the area was bare
of trees for 50 years or more.
From the 1870s to the
1930s, mainly pine, macrocarpa and gums were extensively planted
to beautify the hills and control the spread of gorse. These plantations
are now mature and native vegetation is also regenerating.
The Town Belt currently
comprises 425 hectares of which 388 hectares are legally held upon
trust and subject to the powers of the Deed. The 37 hectares that
is not subject to the Deed is nevertheless managed as part of the
Town Belt (e.g., 25 hectares comprises the Botanic Garden).
The Town Belt Management
The Town Belt Management
Plan adheres to both the spirit and content of the original 1873
Deed. The Deed in effect is a self-contained code, which provides
for the use, maintenance and protection of the Town Belt. However,
the Deed in some respects is too general to provide certain guidance
and direction. The Wellington City Council recognised the need for
a comprehensive Management Plan that provides for continuity of
management and contains detailed policies on many matters not anticipated
at the time the Deed was prepared.
Initial work on the draft
plan, started in 1991, involved research and the preparation of
a series of background reports covering the legal, administrative,
vegetation, landscape, recreation, history and Maori aspects. Public
submissions were invited in 1991 and 120 submissions, many of which
were very detailed, were received from organisations and individuals.
A Town Belt Management
Plan Sub-Committee was established by Council in late 1993 to draft
and review policies and oversee the preparation of the Plan. Public
submissions on the draft plan were called for and many were received.
Hearings were held to consider the submissions and numerous amendments
were made. On 14 December 1994 Wellington City Council formally
adopted the Plan.
Structure of the Plan
The Management Plan consists
of Part 1, General Policies, and Part 2, covering policies
specific to the nine management areas within the Town Belt; Tinakori
Hill, Kelburn Park, Aro Valley, Brooklyn Hills, Macalister Park,
Golf Links/Mt Albert, Newtown/Crawford, Hataitai Park, and Mt Victoria.
The Botanic Gardens and
Zoo, although part of the Town Belt, have their own comprehensive
plans and so are not covered specifically.
The management areas
were defined so that, where necessary, policies specific to the
varied localities within the Town Belt could be clearly explained
and identified. Complementary to the General Policies, these also
reflect the spirit and interest of the Deed.
Part 1, General Policies,
include brief background information on the legal description, physical
and natural environment, history, Maori issues and current use.
The General Policies
document also contains the aims and objectives, and policies that
affect the whole of the Town Belt. These are arranged under four
- Vegetation Management
- Interpretation and
Policies in part 2 for
each of the management areas are arranged under the same headings.
Under each policy heading
there is a brief preamble describing the background and rationale
behind the policy or policies that follow. All efforts were made
to ensure that policies are clear, concise and unambiguous.
The key policy areas
The Town Belt's vegetation is recognised as a significant component
of Wellington's landscape. The present vegetation has been accepted
collectively as the starting point for the future vegetation and
its management. Very little planned planting has occurred in the
last 30 years, and the future of the early planting now needs
to be decided. It is proposed that native vegetation be progressively
established on a much greater proportion of the Town Belt than
at the present time.
The emphasis is on informal recreational activities and there
shall be no additional land developed for organised sports facilities
on the Town Belt.
Routes shall be rationalised to ensure easy, safe access for all
sectors of the community, with an emphasis on well-marked, circular
routes. Both the Northern and Southern Walkways will remain, to
be maintained to a high standard.
Despite the fact that the Town Belt is on the doorstep of central
Wellington, surprisingly few people know of its extent, its history,
the ecological lessons it can provide, or the recreational opportunities
it offers. The Management Plan addresses these issues and proposes
ways that the Town Belt can become integral to the 'Wellington
Many sports clubs and other organisations have leases on the Town
Belt. Criteria for leases have been prepared along with terms
for existing leases and rentals to be charged.
Public access for all, as intended by the Town Belt Deed, is to
be upheld with emphasis on pedestrian access and strict controls
There were over 200 illegal encroachments on the Town Belt when
the Plan was adopted. A procedure for dealing with these encroachments
has been formulated and is described in the Plan. No new encroachments
and Commercial Use: Future applications for these
uses must comply with guidelines formulated to protect the recreational
nature of the Town Belt.
Land has been lost from the original Town Belt due to pressures
from other uses. Council shall acquire land or the use of land
adjacent to the Town Belt to try to regain the visual and physical
continuity of the original concept.
Since the Management
Wellington City Council
gave immediate effect to the Management Plan. A Town Belt curator
was appointed and Roger Still held this position until illness forced
him to relinquish it in 1998. Roger had played a lead role in the
preparation of the Management Plan and the investigations that had
preceded it since 1991. Derek Thompson replaced Roger and is the
current curator but unfortunately, as a result of Council restructuring,
overseeing the Town Belt is not Derek's sole focus as was the case
with the inaugural appointment and as recommended in the Management
Many projects were initiated
and completed under Roger Still as curator. An immense amount of
effort was put into making a start on resolving the many encroachments;
this work continues to be a major activity of Derek and his team.
Even those encroachments that may initially seem simple and straightforward
are rarely so and many are difficult and complex. To date 88 of
the original 219 encroachments (i.e., 40%) have been satisfactorily
resolved with a further 14 encroachments in the process of being
Work started almost immediately
on the alienation of Town Belt land issues that had been initially
researched and documented in the Management Plan. Negotiations and
legal proceedings to have large blocks of land held by Telecom on
Tinakori Hill, by Wellington Hospital and by Government House in
Newtown returned to the City and managed as part of the Town Belt
are ongoing and complex. Getting the Government and others such
as Telecom to agree that these blocks of land were appropriated
from the Town Belt, despite the extensive research and records to
substantiate the fact has been a huge task and one that has not
yet succeeded. This work will continue for many years and the Council
and others have put significant resources and effort into it.
A Friends of the Wellington
Town Belt was formed in 1997 with John Gilberthorpe, (a former Wellington
City Councillor who chaired the Town Belt Management Plan Working
Sub-Committee charged with preparing the Plan), as the Friends'
inaugural Chairman. The Friends have focused their energies on several
fronts, and whilst it maintains a sound working relationship with
the Council, the Friends is fiercely independent and will remain
so. The Friends main efforts to date have been in two areas
campaigning to see the return of alienated lands such as those areas
mentioned above and public education and awareness of the Town Belt's
attributes and values. The Friends have organised many talks from
specialists on different aspects of the Town Belt it's history,
native vegetation, recreation, and extensive pine plantations.
'On the ground', major
projects have been initiated and completed. The City to Sea Walkway
was built in stages and is a fantastic addition to Wellington's
already extensive walkway network. Starting from the heart of the
city and travelling through the city's southern suburbs the walkway
emerges on the south coast providing the north-south, city-sea link
as envisaged in the Management Plan.
Two other areas of activity
on the Town Belt underwent a renewed focus upon completion of the
Management Plan and these initiatives form the current focus
planting of native vegetation, and removal and management of the
In 1997 the City Council,
as a trial, engaged a forestry consultant to prepare a detailed
vegetation management plan of one of the Management Areas on part
of the Town Belt in the south of the city (Management Area 7). A
detailed assessment of condition of the conifers, their life span,
when they should be removed and how this should be done, and an
assessment of wood volumes and returns, was completed as well as
preparing details on how the area should be replanted the
type of species, timing, and cost.
Concurrently, a trial
extraction of groups of hazardous and over-mature trees was carried
out on another part of the Town Belt. Conifers, mainly radiata pine,
are located on much of the middle and upper steep slopes of Tinakori
Hill. The suburbs of Thorndon and Wadestown occupy the lower slopes
and in many places the large over-mature pines sit immediately and
hazardously above houses. Because of the steep terrain, difficult
access and close proximity of houses, a helicopter was used to extract
the trees. Such methods are regularly used in forestry but the value
of the timber and the need to minimise damage to adjacent ecologically
important vegetation warrants this. The value of the timber in the
extensive unmanaged exotic conifer stands on Wellington's Town Belt
has little or no economic value so tree extraction, by helicopter
or otherwise, represents a significant cost.
Most conifers stands
are of an even age and have not been managed as exotic forests.
The conifers were planted because of their ability to grow on a
wide variety of sites, they were cheap and because of their rapid
growth. In a relatively short period, Wellington's barren Town Belt
supported a tall forest, a legacy that we place enormous value on.
It is timely therefore,
that the next major phase of the development of the Town Belt has
commenced. Based on the objectives and policies in the Management
Plan, the City Council has commissioned the preparation of a Town
Belt Implementation Plan, an action plan to cover the next 20 years.
Town Belt Implementation
The Implementation Plan
focuses on how to manage the vegetation, while access and recreation
will be taken into account, they are, by comparison, secondary issues.
To many people the Town Belt is its vegetation, particularly its
woody vegetation the stands of conifers, eucalypts, regenerating
native vegetation and various deciduous exotic trees. There are
of course parts of the Town Belt that are mown grass in sports
fields, the Berhampore Golf Links, in rough grass and exotic perennials,
and regenerating exotic scrub communities.
The Implementation Plan
is to be an internal working document for the Council explaining
what needs to be done to manage the vegetation, how it should be
done and when, and with sufficient levels of generic costings to
allow adequate funding to be set aside in Council's annual plans
over the next two decades.
The vegetation management
policies and strategies in the management plan do not represent
the views of just one person but are a synthesis of many different
perspectives Council staff, Councillors, specialist consultants,
and importantly, the various user groups and public who were consulted
and made submissions as part of the management plan process.
The background reports
prepared in 1991 on the Ecology, Environmental Forestry, History
and Landscape are particularly relevant with regard to vegetation
as is the detailed Vegetation Management report prepared for Management
Area 7 in 1997. Both the Ecology and Environmental Forestry reports
record in detail the existing vegetation its composition,
health, successional trends, etc. The Landscape report describes
the overall context of the vegetation and the contribution it makes
to landscape character whilst the History report provides a social
context and appreciation of why and when certain types of species
The Management Area 7
Vegetation Management report translates a lot of this into details
of how, when and at what cost.
The starting point for
the future vegetation cover has always been the existing vegetation.
The forest cover that we have on the Town Belt today has taken many
years and a great deal of effort to develop; in most places it has
been hard won.
The 'General Policies'
document provides the rationale, outlines the vegetation management
strategies and lists the policies that apply to the Town Belt overall.
The specific policy documents for each of the 9 Management areas
explain and illustrate in detail, the strategies for each area.
The vegetation management
regime proposed for each area has been formulated in accordance
with the existing vegetation, prevailing site conditions, existing
and potential recreation use and landscape considerations. The strategies,
by their very nature are long term and are to be achieved gradually
by modifying the existing vegetation; wholesale change of the vegetation
will not occur.
In addition, the success
of the strategies will depend upon preparation of detailed implementation
programmes, the first of these covering the next 20 years, will
be completed and approved by the middle of 2000. Implementation
does not simply mean tree removal and planting programmes but also
allowance of resources for maintenance and monitoring.
The main thrust of the
vegetation strategies are:
- Native vegetation
over a greater proportion of the Town Belt than at present
- 60% of the area
(254 hectares) compared to the current 20% or 92 hectares.
- The change of
emphasis does not occur in all of the Management Areas.
- This native vegetation
is proposed to be developed from:
areas of native vegetation;
- Gradual replacement
of most of the areas of rank grass and exotic scrub; and
areas of conifer forest, most notably on Tinakori Hill.
- Large areas of conifers
and mixed conifer/eucalypt forest to be retained in several areas,
particularly on Mt Victoria. In addition, smaller stands of conifer
forest will be perpetuated as landmark features and/or demonstration
forest plots in various Management Areas.
- Areas of mixed woodland
to be retained and expanded in several areas to provide seasonal
- Many areas of mown
grassland to be managed as perennial meadow.
Implementation of the
strategies in terms of priorities, resources and the time frame
for them to be carried out is the current focus of the Wellington
The Management Plan advocates
that the Town Belt's forests must be multi-purpose forests, planned
and managed to meet the varied requirements of the people living
- The importance of
the Town Belt's vegetation as a visual asset in the city need
to be recognised.
- The Town Belt is also
a place for recreation. This means providing a range of environments
to cater for varied activities and preferences walks in
both native and exotic forest, places to enjoy seasonal changes
in vegetation, open ground for sport and play, opportunities to
escape the city and to appreciate its beauty.
- The Town Belt is also
widely perceived and valued as a natural environment within the
city. It can be seen and managed as an urban ecosystem, with potential
to educate people about native forest succession, exotic forest
management and the impact that our activities have upon vegetation
of all types.
The management proposals,
then, aim to achieve a balance between these various factors and,
of course, the site conditions, which are also a determining factor.
Time does not allow all
the Management Areas to be covered here. Instead, three key areas
have been selected to illustrate the determining factors and the
kind of information contained in the proposals.
As with all the management
areas, the existing vegetation is the starting point for future
management. Conifers currently form the dominant canopy on much
of the Hill with regenerating native vegetation to the south, in
the gullies and as an understorey on the lower slopes. Exotic broadleaf
species also form a component at the base of the hill.
It is proposed that all
but the lowest edge be returned to native podocarp dominant forest
in the long term. The key factors influencing this decision were:
- Tinakori Hill is
the largest area of south-east facing slopes in the Town Belt
which, being cooler, more sheltered and moister, provide the
most favourable conditions for this forest type;
Bush, in the next valley, is a potential seed source if connecting
wildlife corridors can be enhanced.
The exotic deciduous
component at the base of the slopes is to be retained as a complement
to the adjacent Botanic Garden, most particularly for its seasonal
This is a major change
but a gradual staged approach over a number of decades is advocated
to ensure that there is continuity of forest cover. This means:
- Thinning of the
conifers to encourage native understorey development,
- Enrichment planting
of native species where regeneration is well established,
- Gradually working
up and out from the moister gully and lower sites as the native
This would see a gradual
reduction of the conifer canopy over a number of decades, with forest
cover retained during the transition phase. In the long term, an
equally striking forest backdrop would be achieved to that of the
Mt Victoria is a similarly
large landform associated with a prominent skyline and an important
backdrop to the city. However, the site conditions are very different.
These slopes are north and west facing, exposed not only to the
sun but also to the drying effect of the prevailing north-westerly
wind. These factors, combined with poor, thin soils on the upper
slopes, indicate that if native vegetation were to be established
it would be of a low scrub type rather that a tall forest type.
This type of vegetation
would significantly alter both the visual character of the ridge
and the recreational environment. Mt Victoria is one of the most
intensively used areas of the Town Belt. Public submissions indicated
that tall forest environments are an important part of the Town
Belt's attraction, with the open understorey found under conifer
forest, and environment preferred by certain users.
Bearing all these factors
in mind, it was considered that the predominant conifer/eucalyptus
canopy should be retained and perpetuated by gradual replanting.
As pictured, the character would remain much the same. The main
changes would be:
- Extending the conifer/eucalypt
mix to the slopes above Wellington College to unify the visual
- Extending the planting
higher up the slope to conceal the unsightly roading scar there,
- Encouraging native
coastal forest to develop on a moister gully areas behind Oriental
- Replacing mown
grass on the steep summit ground with low native shrub cover.
Once again, long-term
management calls for a conservative, gradual management strategy
to ensure that forest cover would be retained. Replanting of conifers,
for instance, would be done by thinning and underplanting of small
areas on a progressive basis.
A very different management
area is the Brooklyn Hills. This is a less prominent part of the
Town Belt, comprising a complex series of moister gullies and drier,
exposed spurs. There is varied recreation potential including the
gardens of Central Park, the sports grounds and walking opportunities.
The varied site conditions
are reflected in the complexity of the existing vegetation. The
scattered mix of exotic broadleaf species and conifers, scrub, rank
grassland and native regeneration lacks visual unity.
The main proposals are
- Develop a more
unified framework of native vegetation principally in the gullies,
- Retain some conifer
stands as landmark plantings,
- Retain the open
character of the spurs as viewpoints and walking routes,
- Enhance the existing
mixed woodland of Central Park more as an arboretum and to complement
the Botanic Garden.
Once again the strategy
for achieving these objectives is gradual. Native regeneration is
already occurring in the gullies or as an understorey beneath the
exotic planting. Weed control and enrichment planting would encourage
its development. Where conifers are to go in the long term, trees
will only be removed if they present a hazard or will be thinned
and the remaining trees left for their natural life span.
The proposals for Central
Park would need detailed design when resources permit, but, in the
meantime, the existing tall framework vegetation is essentially
Overall, the vegetation
proposals have been determined on the basis of site conditions,
recreational use, visual consideration and the preferences expressed
in public submissions.
Currently there is a
roughly equal distribution of conifers, other exotic vegetation,
grass and native vegetation throughout the Town Belt. A significant
change to this is recommended in the Management Plan:
- A substantial increase
in the proportion of native vegetation to provide a basic unifying
framework for the Town Belt,
- The conifer component
remaining principally on the Mt Victoria summit ridge with only
smaller landmark stands elsewhere,
- The areas of mixed
woodland, often with deciduous species, which already exist on
several suitable sites around the Town Belt, will be retained
for their amenity value and seasonal interest.
Active vegetation management
is going to be needed and the Implementation Plan will provide the
details for this.
- Although the conifer
forests will grow on for several decades, a replanting programme
will be needed to perpetuate these forests where desired,
- Enrichment planting
will be needed if native vegetation is to breach its climax state
as seed sources are lacking within the Town Belt for the late
successional and climax species,
- Invasive weeds, which
threaten the health of both native and exotic forest environments
throughout the Town Belt, will be continual responsibility.
- Hazard trees are
already an issue on the Town Belt and as these trees get older
this will become more of an issue. Wellington City Council prepared
a Hazard Tree Assessment in 1998, ranking the level of risk in
different parts of the Town Belt.