Forest restoration and protection on
Bluff Hill and Bluff Harbour environments


About Bluff Hill

Follow State Highway One as far south as you can go and you’ll get to the township of Bluff. It’s one of New Zealand’s oldest towns with the first ship’s arrival recorded in 1813 and settlement starting in 1824 due to sealing and whaling. Prior to European settlement the main Maori settlement was on nearby Ruapuke Island. Bluff is now a maritime town with much of its employment relying upon the sea in various forms.

Bluff Hill is a significant geographical landmark of Southland. The hill rises 265m from the sea and on a fine day it can be seen from as far away as Fiordland. Excluding the town, the hill encompasses approximately 630 hectares of land, which is connected to the mainland by a 300m wide isthmus at Ocean Beach.

Much of the rock from which Southland is made was formed long before New Zealand began its drift away from the super continent Gondwana 80 million years ago. During the Permian period (280 - 235 million years ago), a chain of volcanoes was building land by erupting molten rock from below the surface into the shallow seas around. Motupöhue was formed when molten rock oozed up through the seabed but did not quite reach the surface. Insulated beneath layers of sediment, it cooled slowly, forming a mound of coarse-grained plutonic rock called norite. Norite (also known as Bluff granite) was quarried from the slopes of Motupöhue until the mid 20th century. It is a durable stone and was used to build the retaining walls of Bluff’s Island Harbour. Cut and polished, it was used for headstones and decorative panels. The Bluff War Memorial and the map on the summit of Bluff Hill/ Motupöhue are made from polished norite.

– from the DOC Super Site for Education pamphlet on the Bluff Hill/Motupohue Scenic Reserve

Where the Forest Meets the Sea (photo: Joel Ryan)Where the Forest Meets the Sea (photo: Joel Ryan)Bluff is a diverse hill, comprised of a wide variety of habitat types: puggy farmland, gorse, pine forest, regenerating native scrub, and a beautiful patch of original podocarp/kamahi forest with much rata, rimu, miro and totara to name a few species. Bluff Hill is one of the last populated places in New Zealand where the forest meets the sea providing food and shelter to marine and land animals.

Three different groups own the land: Invercargill City Council, Department of Conservation (DOC), and Ocean Beach Properties Ltd. The most ecologically valuable land is administered by DOC. Bluff Hill is a Topuni site and as such is an area of great importance to Ngai Tahu.

The Hill is very well used by walkers, runners and mountain bikers on the extensive walking tracks and the only downhill mountain bike tracks in easy reach of Invercargill. The stunning coastline is valued by divers and shore fishermen alike for its rugged beauty, kaimoana and easy access (via the walking tracks).

Pest control on Bluff Hill

The geographical layout of Bluff with its narrow land bridge makes pest control ecologically sustainable, cost effective and, most of all, achievable. There are few remnants of coastal Podocarp/Kamahi/Rata forest left on the mainland and few as accessible and popular as Bluff Hill. Bluff Hill is one of the few populated places where the forest meets the sea providing food and shelter to marine and land animals. Bluff Hill is home to declining, at-risk, nationally vulnerable and endangered birds species: blackbacked gull, little blue and yellow penguins, stewart island shag, mainland sooty shearwater, red-crowned parakeet, south island rifleman, fernbird, kaka and NZ pigeon.

Visitors come through Bluff on their way to Stewart Island; many stay and explore the historical sights, walk the tracks and admire the views. As proud Bluff residents we want our visitors and our future generations to enjoy the uniqueness of Bluff Hill as it should be: a thriving ecosystem abundant with native plants and animals and with as few introduced predators as possible. A predator-controlled environment on Bluff Hill provides a link in the conservation corridor between Stewart Island, Ruapuke Island, Omaui, Otatara, Mores Reserve and Fiordland.

Latest news

Hedgehope School Visit

The children from Hedgehope School have been learning about the environment so their teacher Lisa McCraken, thought it would be a great idea to bring them to Motupohue to meet with the BHMET. The… Read more