Tōtara Reserve opens Labour Weekend for camping

Tōtara Reserve, just 50 minutes drive from Palmerston North, is nestled in the foothills of the Ruahine Ranges in the Pohangina Valley. It is one of the best and most accessible examples of native lowland forest that once covered most of the Horizons Region.

A popular spot for daytime visitors and walkers, each year the reserve also offers camping from Labour Weekend through to Easter Weekend.

Horizons Regional Council biosecurity, biodiversity and partnerships officer Rod Smillie says it’s wonderful seeing families return to Tōtara Reserve as well as new groups camping each year.

“Tōtara Reserve has grown in popularity in recent years and camping spots at the reserve are hot property, says Mr Smillie.

“We encourage anyone wanting to stay to get in early and book now for the summer months to avoid disappointment.

“There are powered and non-powered camping sites available and although the prices have increased slightly this year, the rates are still incredibly competitive for short or long term holidays.”

There are two camping grounds in Tōtara Reserve, with the large site (Kererū) adjacent to Camp Rangi Woods opening this weekend. A smaller site (Kahikatea) across the road is currently waiting for flood repairs and should reopen in the new year.

Bookings are necessary for powered sites and can be made by contacting the caretaker on 06 3294 774. Unpowered sites operate on a first in first served basis.

Mr Smillie says the reserve offers modern facilities, including hot showers for campers, and toilets, barbeques, numerous bush walks and a fantastic nature playground for day and overnight visitors to enjoy.

“Biodiversity has also improved within the reserve thanks to pest control efforts by council,” says Mr Smillie.

“Birdlife has increased, and we have found evidence of native long-tail bats (pekapeka) and large carnivorous land snails (powelliphant marchanti) which is really encouraging for our biosecurity and biodiversity teams who have been trialing new techniques to manage and enhance the biodiversity in the reserve.

“One of these techniques includes the installation of wētā hotels along the Fern Walk. If the hotels attract many wētā then we can determine there are likely to be less predator or pest numbers, however if wētā numbers are low then our biosecurity team will look at what additional pest control work can be done within the reserve.

“The really neat thing about these hotels however, is that they provide a unique opportunity for the public to physically interact with the environment around them and kids love them,” says Mr Smilie.

“Tōtara Reserve is also home to numerous bush walks. Plant identification signage has recently installed along the Fern Walk.

“The aim of these signs is to help people to test their fern knowledge and recognition, hopefully igniting important conversations with the younger generation about the world around them.

“The reserve is also home to many native bird species including kārearea (bush falcon), tui, pīwakawaka (fantail), tauhou (wax eye), ruru (morepork), korimako (bellbird), kotare (kingfisher), kererū (wood pigeon), tomtit, and pōpokatea (whitehead).”

Horizons asks that any swimmers be mindful of the risks involved with swimming in the region’s rivers such as sunken logs, river bank trees and rocks. We also advise to make sure they swim well away from cliffs, and access the river from the larger Kererū campsite.

More information about the reserve, its facilities and rates for camping is available online.