Rakiura National Park is a nature reserve park located on Stewart Island / Rakiura, New Zealand. It is the newest national park of New Zealand and opened in 2002. The protected area covers about 85% of the island.
Rakiura National Park is the 14th of New Zealand's national parks and was officially opened on 9 March 2002 by the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, the Minister of Conservation, Sandra Lee, and the mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary. It is New Zealand's newest national park.It covers close to 1,400 square kilometres (540 sq mi), which is about 85% of Stewart Island / Rakiura, New Zealand's third-largest island. The park area excludes the township area around Halfmoon Bay (Oban) and some roads as well as private or Maori-owned land further inland. It is made up of a network of former nature reserves, scenic reserves, and State Forest areas.
A chain sculpture at the entrance to Rakiura National Park symbolises the Māori mythology of the island, which held that the South Island was the canoe of the demigod Māui and that Rakiura was the canoe's anchor, as evidenced by an alternative name for the island of "Te Punga o Te Waka a Māui" (the anchor of Maui's canoe). The sculpture was designed by noted Southland sculptor Russell Beck, and was unveiled as part of the opening of the national park. In 2008, a similar sculpture was erected in Bluff, and it represents the other end of the chain.
Fauna and flora
Many native birds can be found within the park, and Rakiura offers perhaps the best opportunity anywhere in New Zealand for viewing kiwi in the wild. This is in part due to the absence of stoats and ferrets. Certain coastal areas of this park are breeding areas for the endangered yellow-eyed penguin. Weka, a flightless and curious bird species, can only be found on offshore islands.In the 1970s, kākāpō were found in the Tin Range at a time when it was thought that the species was nearly extinct. The kakapo have been transferred to nearby Codfish Island / Whenua Hou, which is not part of the national park.
The popular Rakiura Track is within the national park. This is a three day two night trip that is 29 kilometres long. The track meanders through lowland rimu and kamahi forest. the track takes in Port William and the north arm of Paterson Inlet. It is possible to see kiwi on this trip at night time near the huts.
The Northwest Circuit circumnavigates the northern and western aspects of Stewart Island. The track is 125 kilometres long and takes most people between eight and ten days to complete. Most of the track is along the coastline visiting a series of very isolated sandy beaches. Once it reaches Mason Bay, the track crosses the Freshwater Depression before reaching Paterson Inlet. There are ten huts on the track which are, in general, spaced between five and seven hours walk apart.
The Southern Circuit is a challenging nine day tramping trip. It is 70 kilometres long and after rain, can involve long periods of walking in mud and deep water. The Southern Circuit takes in Doughboy Bay Hut. This eight bed hut is the southernmost hut in the Department of Conservation's network.