Dec 11 1980

Silverpeaks Forest (dated)

Silver Peaks Forest lies in an area that has long been popular for family outings and tramping. It is  less that 30 km north of Dunedin, on the foothills to the west of the Silver Peaks Mountains, and branch roads from State Highway 1 give easy access.

The greater part of the forest is an exotic plantation, with remnant native bush in gullies. It dominates the middle landscape between cultivated farm land and the serrated skyline of the main tops of the Sliver Peaks rising to 750 m in the west. Further south Swampy Summit and Flagstaff (both 670 m) also overtop the forest, which rises to 400 m and falls sharply to the Waikouaiti River in the west.

Mountain Track on the main ridge through the forest was part of the earliest sled and bullock cart track between the arable lands of Waikouaiti in the north, settled in 1838 by whalers, and the settlement of Otago, founded at Dunedin in 1848.

Another old track, from Waitati to Double Hill and Green Hill may have been a pre-European Maori trail to inland Otago and greenstone supplies.

European settlement began along the coast in the early 1900s and had great impact on the original dense forests of the hills. The townships of Waitati, Seacliff and Karitane required timber for building and run-holders used fire to clear land for stock grazing.

Gold mining began in 1865 in the south branch of the Waikouaiti River but there is no record of a major strike. Some claims were still being worked in the 1930s, but old workings, mine shafts and a disused water race are all that remain.

The steep broken terrain of the Silver Peaks was once clothed in dense native bush. On the foothills there were mixed podocarps and hardwoods, and on the drier ranges silver beech predominated. Open tussock covered the tops.

As a result of early exploitation for timber and farming, the bush was largely cleared,leaving only remnants in gullies on the eastern flanks of the foothills; the rest having given way to open tussock ridges, scrub and schist rock faces.

Between 1964 and 1967 cleared land previously used for farming and in parts burnt off was purchased and prepared for forestry. In 1968 the first planting, 98 hectares of radiata pine, was made. Since then, 80 hectares of trees have been planted annually – radiata pine on the eastern slopes and Douglas fir on the western slopes.

– From NZ Forest Service information sheet, pre-1993

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