Kahurangi National Park: Cobb Valley, Mt Arthur and Nelson Tablelands

January 20, 2021
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The Cobb Reservoir, Nelson Tablelands, MountArthur and Asbestos Cottage. (LINZ via NZ Topo Map,, 2017)


AHURANGI National Park is the secondlargest national park in New Zealand after Fiordland. With over five hundredand seventy kilometres of tracks, including the famous seventy-eight-kilometreHeaphy Track, Kahurangi is tramping heaven. With its coastal palm forests,marble mountains, rare birds like the rock wren and the spotted kiwi, andtussock high country, it’s an incredible place to be.

In Māori Kahurangi means treasured possession, which isexactly what this park is. For hundreds of years the Māori used tracks throughthis region to find greenstone, called pounamu in Māori, which they used forprized jewellery passed down from one generation to the next.

Part of the Kahurangi National Park, the Cobb Valley can beaccessed from the Upper Tākaka district, at the base of the Tākaka Hill alongthirty-eight kilometres of unsealed road. Mount Arthur, the principal mountainin the area, can be reached via the Graham Valley Road, thirty-five kilometresfrom Motueka. Access to the Nelson Tablelands, a high plateau, can be gained onfoot via each of these two routes, and the west coast of the South Island canbe reached from the Leslie-Karamea Track.

The diverse terrain I covered included a series of uniquegeological features. Mt Arthur is made of hard, crystalline marble: below theground are some of the deepest shafts and most intricate cave systems in theworld. Cavers have currently joined two cave systems in the area and made amassive thirty-six kilometres long, twelve hundred metres deep undergroundlabyrinth. Nettlebed is now the deepest cave in the Southern Hemisphere ofwhich the depth is known.

Cobb Reservoir, nominally 819 metres above sealevel on the surface. The tops above the reservoir areas high up again, and it is at that point that the Nelson Tablelands are reached.

The picturesque Lower Gridiron Shelter


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