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Arrowtown Flora and Fauna

Flora & Fauna

Arrowtown's environment has been shaped over millions of years with both extremes of heat and cold forming the landscape and geology of the Wakatipu Basin. The rock most common in the area, is Schist. It lies beneath Arrowtown and surrounding hillsides and was used in construction by early settlers. Formed by a process called metamorphism, layers of 250 million year old volcanic rock and sedimentary material combine with pressures of up to 4-5000 times normal atmospheric pressure and temperatures of up to 400°C.

The end product is Schist with interspersed layers of quartz, seams of gold, and copper. The Crown Terrace view point is a good place to see the evidence of the glacial action which carved the Wakatipu basin, which over time saw several periods of ice advance and retreat. This ice began to melt 14,000 years ago. Slowly, the plant species colonized the area. Mãori explorers had traveled through the Wakatipu basin for about a thousand years prior to the Goldrush. Finds of Pounamu (Jade) workings at Lake Hayes, Moa Hunting at Arrow Junction and artifacts near Gibbston and near Macetown trace the steps of these early traveling groups.

Before the arrival of the gold miners and pasturalists, the Wakatipu Basin was a shrubland with species like Manuka and the thorny Matagouri common. The cover of native bush and Mountain beech forest in the shady gullies was home to many species of birdlife, and the hillsides tussock herbfields, with the sharp pointed Speargrass or Taramea punctuating the slopes. Fire, invasive plant species and animals introduced by European miners and farmers altered the ecological balance in the area.

Although the Moa had become extinct through hunting in pre European times, many other native birds have become extinct in the last 100 - 200 years. Rabbits were introduced in Southland in 1867 and within about fifteen years had bred to plague proportions, and spread throughout the South Island, eating the pastures and starving the farmed sheep. Farmers were forced to drastic measures, some going bankrupt and leaving their farms. The 1880's introduction of Stoats, Weasels and Ferrets was intended to control the rabbit numbers, however, native birds were easier prey. Plants like Blackberries and Briar Rose were introduced by early settlers as a good source of Vitamin C, and was a useful hedge plant, however in New Zealand, these also spread out of control and became weeds covering large areas. Today, the hillside around Arrowtown is covered in mainly exotic or introduced trees and shrubs, many turning the hillside the flame reds and yellows in the autumn for which Arrowtown is famed for, native song birds, such as the Bell bird and Tui are heard in the trees and gardens in town.