Haast, South Westland - UNESCO World Heritage Area

The south west corner of the South Island is internationally recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  The site covers 2.6 million hectares and includes four national parks: Westland Tai Poutini, Aoraki/Mount Cook, Mount Aspiring and Fiordland.  This area was deemed significant as it is a great example of a time when NZ was part of ancient Gondwana land, more than 80 million years ago.  The landscape has been dramatically carved up by glacial activity creating stunning lakes, valleys and fjords.  This vast landscape contains huge stands of mature beech and podocarp trees; is a haven to endangered bird species including the kiwi, takahē and is also home to the cheeky kea.  This UNESCO status is reserved for areas with deep significance and importance (think the Pyramids of Egypt!) and this classification supports their ongoing preservation.  The wilderness in our part of the world is unique due to its ancient links and its current untouched and pristine condition.

For some really comprehensive information on exploring our little slice of of wilderness check out this blog from DOC…lots of great places to explore and some beautiful photos.  This info specifically covers Franz Josef south (Waiho River) down to Haast (and its surrounds) and the walks as you travel over the Haast Pass.

A road trip through Gondwana-land – Fox to Haast

Finally, just for clarificaiton, there are actually three World Heritage sites in NZ…. Te Waipounamu (south west corner of South Island), New Zealand’s Sub-Antartic islands (the Snares, Bounty Islands, Antipodes Islands, Auckland Islands and Campbell Island) – important primarily due to their biodiversity (and rarity) of seabirds that breed there and Tongariro National Park which has a second special recognition for its cultural and spiritual significance for Maori.

Make sure you allow some time to explore our little slice of a World Heritage National Park as you travel through South Westland.