For over one hundred years now across South Canterbury the traveller is greeted with rich pastoral land, shelter belts, green pleasant valleys and rippling crystal clear streams. When he reaches the top of Burkes Pass he is confronted with a landscape as different as it is dramatic. The Mackenzie high country is a vast inland basin, noted not only for its merinos and tussock but for its lakes; Tekapo, Pukaki, and Ohau and its adjacent mountains and the unique flora and fauna and snow. A pleasant alternative scenic route through the Mackenzie is along the road following the Tekapo Canal, which provides water to Tekapo B power station in Lake Pukaki. Turn right at Maryburn and continue all the way to Lake Pukaki. Not recommended in windy weather or if there is icy road conditions. Another alternative route to Pukaki is the Braemar Rd, shingle but has scenery, pick it up just north of Tekapo after the Godley Peak road on the right. Do take the side trip Godley Peak road down to Mt. John and Lakes Alexandrina and McGregor for some good bird watching.
Timaru Herald 30/08/2014
Black stilts, or kaki, are in the same critically endangered category as kakapo and takahe, but can readily be seen in the wild. Kaki had been seen occasionally in the bays around Lake Tekapo township and on the greens at the Cairns golf course. As of February 2014 there were 131 adults and 20 juveniles known to the Department of Conservation. DOC wants to increase the profile on this iconic Canterbury icon [red and black]. Kaki are restricted to the braided rivers and wetlands of the Mackenzie Basin, South Canterbury. Kaki have been intensively managed since 1981, when their population declined to a low of just 23 birds. By 2000, wild adult kaki numbers had increased to 31, and in Sept. 2012 there were 60. DOC's captive breeding centre, near Twizel, plays an important role in the kaki recovery programme. "Despite 20 years of intensive conservation efforts, this species remains the most threatened wading bird in the world. Kaki are listed as nationally critical in the DOC threat ranking. The annual release of captive reared birds, taken as eggs from wild and and captive pairs, in combination with predator control, has prevented it from becoming extinct in the wild. If DOC stopped managing them, they would be extinct in eight years. Thirty birds from the Isaac Conservation Trust and 22 birds from Twizel will be released into the wild. Fifty-two kaki will also be released into the Tasman River.
Black Swans - Lake Alexandrina
Tasman Valley Rd.
The land here dominates. Everything is on a macro scale. Hills are mountains, rivers are raging torrents, the wind is a dervish, and the sky contains the whole universe. Even this time of year, snow lurks at the top of the highest peaks and clouds roll down to cover the ridges and tops. wrote strathmorepark in January 2014
Press, 17 May 1910, Page 8
The Mackenzie plains are somewhat peculiarly environed. They are almost completely surrounded by hills, the result being that the snow lies longer on them than on the hills, and to this extent growth is retarded. It is further interfered with by the scorching nor- westers, which burn up everything in their track. It is noteworthy, however, that wherever shelter and water are obtainable good results are got from the soil. At Mr Matheson's Simon's Pass station, for instance, there are excellent paddocks of cocksfoot that have Keen down for over twenty years. Again, there is a rabbiter's hut with a cultivation patch which is on the hillside, about 150 ft above the plain, where fruit of all kinds is raised, grapes are grown in the open, and potatoes and tomatoes grow well. The analyses of soil taken from the plains show that it is not lacking in the essentials for plant life, and, generally but for their exposure to climatic extremes, for the absence of shelter, and of sufficient rainfall, there appears on reason why this country should be deteriorating into a state of uselessness. The plains comprise an area of thousands of acres, and the importance of finding a solution to the problem of their depletion of vegetation is apparent.
1884 No. 1. The first Hermitage Hotel is built at Foliage Hill nr White Horse Hill on the site of the present campground by the Hermitage Company. It was constructed of cob and corrugated iron.
1885 Hooker and Mueller Valleys are gazetted as the Hooker Glacier Recreation Reserve.
1887 Tasman Valley above the Mueller Valley confluence is gazetted as the Tasman Recreation Reserve
1903 Hooker Glacier Recreation Reserve is dedicated as Aoraki Domain, and vested with the Minister of Tourism and Health Resorts.
1906 The first cars are at Mount Cook. Motor service begins a regular service to Mount Cook.
1912–13 The Hermitage building at White Horse Hill was damaged by flooding from the Mueller Glacier in 1912–13 and replaced with a new building at the site of the present Hermitage, near Governors Bush. This was the first building in the existing village.
1914 No. 2 Hermitage was built at 2,575ft, a roughcast building
1953 Tasman Park and Aorangi Domain are declared Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand’s sixth.
1956–57 Base huts are built at Foliage Hill by the Canterbury Mountaineering Club (Wyn Irwin Hut) and the NZ Deerstalkers’ Association (Thar Lodge).
1957 In September the second Hermitage is destroyed in a spectacular fire. By this time The Hermitage was taken over by the Tourist Hotel Corporation of New Zealand. A major flood event on Boxing Day 1957 produces flood and debris flows into the village from Glencoe Stream and Kitchener Creek. The Kitchener Creek rock protection dyke and the first Glencoe water intake are built. House One is built for the Chief Guide.
1958 No. 3. A new hotel is opened end of May 1958.
1960 Park Headquarters (Visitor Centre) building begins and opens in 1961. The ‘DC3 strip’ is reconstructed to become the airport. The first school opens in the village, using a building from Irishman Creek.
1961 The Hermitage is extended by 42 beds. Scheduled flights begin operating to Mount Cook using DC3 aircraft. Grid electricity is connected to the village.
1965 House 3 access road is built, first water mains installed, and ferro-cement water tanks at Glencoe Stream are installed.
1966 Alpine Instruction Limited begins a guiding and instruction service operating out of Ball Hut.
1968–69 A site at Birch Hill is gazetted for a village, and three houses for park ranger staff are built. A development plan is prepared by Ministry of Works Town and Country Planning Division. Reservations are expressed about the suitability of Birch Hill.
1969 Rangers in all national parks cease to be employed by boards and become part of the Public Service, within the Department of Lands and Survey. A decision is made to shift the village to Black Birch Fan due to the exposed nature of the site at Birch Hill and intrusion of houses into the national park landscape. A first stop bank is constructed at Black Birch Stream and the top sewage pond and the Ponds Access Road is built. Pilots Houses are built on Black Birch Fan.
1970 The first Visitor Centre car and bus parks are built. Kitchener Drive, Wakefield Drive, and Sebastopol Drive are built.
1972 The first staff houses appear on Black Birch Fan, relocated from Birch Hill, signalling a decade of intensive development of village infrastructure.
1973 A major addition to the Visitor Centre is built. Chalets are built.
1974 Chalet macerator pump and controls are added to the sewerage system.
1975 The new sealed highway (State Highway 80) from Pukaki is opened, greatly improving access. The second major addition to the Visitor Centre is built.
1976 An industrial (voluntary) fire brigade is established in the village. The second sewage pond is built; sewerage and water reticulation networks, and Ponds Access Road are extended. The first school is shifted from Irishmans Creek.
1977 Black Birch drinking water intake, water-pump station installed in Sebastopol Drive with two pumps and three 1million-litre tanks added to the water system. Two kilometres of asbestos-cement pipe are added to the ‘ring’ water main in the lower village. The 40-room East Wing (now the Wakefield Wing) of the Hermitage is opened.
1979 A severe storm causes a civil defence emergency, damage to some buildings, and a rethink of safety standards. Housing mounds are built in the village and stream control installed at the Chalets. Work begins on building Terrace Road and Larch Grove Road.
1980–81 Storm water control is built – kerb and channel on existing roads, and sumps. Terrace Road, Larch Grove Road, Blackburn Place, Glencoe Access Road, Mueller Place, Kea Place, Sealy Place, Du Faur Place are built. A standby diesel generator is installed for the Black Birch water pumps.
1982 Paths are built throughout the village.
1984 The Hermitage celebrates its centenary. A flood-control wall is built at Governors Bush.
1985 Alpine Guides Limited opens a new shop/office in the village. Snow-plough blades are purchased to fit into the existing truck and loader.
1986 A YHA hostel is opened. World Heritage Status (the first in New Zealand) is bestowed on the park, together with Westland/Tai Poutini and Fiordland National Parks. A flood control warning system is installed on Sebastopol Bridge over Black Birch Stream.
1987 The Department of Conservation replaces Lands and Survey as the department responsible for the park. The centenary of New Zealand’s national parks is celebrated. A Hino 4WD fire truck is purchased. A new road in the lower village, Pilots Way, is built. A day shelter is built in the village for visitors to the park.
1989 The park, as part of the South West New Zealand (Te Wahipounamu) World Heritage Area, is recognised by UNESCO as one of the world’s outstanding natural landscapes.
1990 Aoraki Conservation Board is established in place of the National Parks and Reserves Board. Tennis courts are built.
1995 Legislative change removes control of about 10 hectares of park land, mostly in the village, from Tourist Hotel Corporation jurisdiction.
1996 Scientific reports identify major potential natural hazards in the village, resulting in a halt to all new building while protection work is undertaken over the following two to three years. The Ngāi Tahu Claims Settlement Act 1998 is enacted by Parliament. The official name of the park and village is changed from Mount Cook to Aoraki/Mount Cook. The Aoraki/Mount Cook tōpuni confirms and places an 'overlay' of Ngāi Tahu values over Aoraki/Mount Cook (the mountain), the Mount Cook Range, and the Hooker Valley. 1999 The long-awaited community centre for village residents is subsequently opened. There is a major upgrade of the water supply system. A new tank (the balance tank) is added to the water supply system at Glencoe Stream, and new control system, fire main, and reticulation/sprinkler pipes are installed. Glencoe Tanks Access Road, Black Birch Access Road, and Hermitage Tanks Access Roads are built.
2000 Major geotechnical protection works in the village are completed, paving the way for building development to resume.
2001 The Hermitage is extended with a new wing of 60 rooms (Aoraki Wing). The airport terminal is reconstructed following a fire in 2000.
2003 The first new independent business in the village since the 1996 freeze on development, The Old Mountaineers’ café/bar, is opened in the village on the old helipad next to the visitor centre.
2005 Emergency services (ambulance, fire, search and rescue, civil defence) are shifted out of the park headquarters into a purpose built Emergency Services Building, sited by the department workshops. A concession is granted for a new accommodation lodge in the village, Aoraki/Mount Cook Alpine Lodge, which opens later in the year.
2007 The Hermitage undergoes further development with the opening of the Sir Edmund Hillary Centre, comprising a café/bar and museum complex, 3D-movie theatre, and planetarium. The school building is extended.
2008 Visitor Centre and car park opens later in the year. Whitehorse Hill Campground undergoes major redevelopment with a new public shelter, toilets, hugely increased parking, and camping areas. The campground is connected to the village water and sewerage systems. The Hooker Valley Road is tar-sealed. The water system in the village is upgraded to a UV-treated system and the pumping sheds and systems undergo major upgrade.
New Zealand Herald, 4 March 1893, Page 1
Three years ago, when I first visited the Mount Cook district, there was a tedious two days' coach journey over very rough roads, and, though there was a great deal to be seen from the Hermitage, at the journey's end, the greater wonders of the Tasman, Murchison, and Hooker Glaciers were not easily accessible. Since then the coach road has been greatly improved under the direction of Mr. T. N. Brodrick, and those enterprising coach proprietors, Messrs. Shaw and McKay, have succeeded, by means of seven relays of horses, in rattling off the 96 miles that separate Fairlie Creek from Aorangi in one day. This one-day coach service to Mount Cook was planned some time ago by Mr. Shaw, and, notwithstanding the croaking of the wiseacres, he has now made it a thorough success. As we take our seats in the capacious Cobb and Co. at Fairlie early in the morning it is difficult to realise that before nightfall we shall be sitting ,in front) of the cheery log fire in Huddleston's smokingroom at the Hermitage, but Barry, our whip, a son of the redoubtable Captain Jackson Barry—will do his best to land us there up to contract time, notwithstanding the bad weather and the influenza from which he is suffering. We start off in a coach and five, and in the evening we realise that we have been driven to Mount Cook in a coach and 30 as the result of our seven changes of horses We breakfast at Burke's Pass, and the appetising influence of the keen mountain air enables us to do justice to the good things provided in the wayside inn. The piece de resistance is a huge dish of ham and eggs. There never was seen such a dishful of eggs, and we all have ham and egg some passenger ham and six eggs He said it was the mountain air. The mountain air is responsible for many things in these parts. Leaving the hotel after a stay of half-an hour, the coach toils up the gradual ascent of the pass. On our left, a little way from the village, is the cemetery, nestling among the pine trees. A study of the inscriptions on the tombstones denotes that an unusual number of those who are buried there have mot their death by accident of various kinds, several having been killed by an avalanche some years ago. Once over the pass, we make good progress, and the 24 miles to Lake Tekapo are rattled off before nine o'clock. Tekapo, on a calm summer's day, with its turquoise green waters lazily lapping a rocky shore, and the clouds and the snowy mountains afar off reflected on its surface, is a beautiful lake, and the traveller who has plenty of time on his hands might well spend a day or two quietly there. We stay only long enough to change horses, and then winding slowly up the hill we find the coach horses again trotting briskly over the dreary tussocky plains of the Mackenzie country. Past Balmoral station, across the Fork Stream, Irishman's Creek, and the Mary burn we go, through Simon's Pass and Dover Pass, and then, shortly after one o'clock, we sight Lake Pukaki and pull up for luncheon at the Ferry Hotel.
The hills were stunning with a little fresh snow.
Another couple of centimetres and Aoraki / Mt Cook would have been in full view. It is behind Irishman Creek sign.