Why Visit the World Heritage Area of Haast
As the last (or first) port of call when leaving the West Coast of New Zealand, you could go more out with a bang than Haast. Haast is in the heart of the Te Wahipounamu UNESCO World Heritage Area making it a great base for exploring one of the world’s most precious areas.
UNESCO, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, identifies “World Heritage Sites” and works with countries to preserve and protect these sites of huge significance. All in all, having UNESCO World Heritage Status is a huge deal! Just like the Pyramids of Egypt, Haast and the surrounding area is deemed worthy of the World Heritage Status.
So why exactly does Haast have World Heritage Status? UNESCO put it like: Natural features which contribute to New Zealand’s international reputation for superlative landscapes: its highest mountains, longest glaciers, tallest forests, wildest rivers and gorges, most rugged coastlines and deepest fiords and lakes. The temperate rainforests of the property are unmatched in their composition, extent and intactness by any such forests anywhere in the world.
1. The Snow-capped Mountains are Only 30km from the Sea!
You can be hiking in the mountainous wilderness in the morning and be by the Tasman by the afternoon! Alternatively, take a jet boat tour up the Waiatoto River, taking you from the river mouth all the way into the heart of the Aspiring National Park in no time!
2. Haast Has a Rare Alpine Fault
The Alpine Fault is the contact zone for two tectonic plates making it one of only three segments of the worlds major plate boundaries on land.
3. It’s Like Stepping Back in Time
The Aspiring National Park and Fiordland National Park surrounding Haast is the largest and least modified area of New Zealand’s natural ecosystem. In fact, it is said to be the best modern example of Gondwanaland, which means its part of one of the most important events in the earth’s evolutionary history.
4. It’s Home to Fascinating Wildlife
A range of plants and animals are unusually living in the wake of glaciers. What’s more, there is on-going evolution associated with long-standing geographical isolation of animal populations, for example, the extinct elephant bird from Madagascar DNA is found in the kiwi bird!
5. It Holds a Huge Variety of Landscapes!
From Haast, you are never too far from primaeval views of ‘Ice Age’ glaciers and exposed tussock grasslands to dense temperate rainforest and brilliant blue rivers, lakes and wetlands!
6. There’s a Whole Lot of Coastline!
The UNESCO World Heritage Area surrounding Haast includes more than 1000km of Tasman coastline! There are definitely some views worth hiking to!
7. A Giant Carnivorous Snail Lives Here
The powelliphanta is the world’s largest carnivorous snail growing as large as a man’s fist. They suck up worms like spaghetti!
8. And it Holds Extremely Rare Birds
Fiordland National Park is the only place in the world where you will find takahe living in the wild. They were thought to be extinct but were rediscovered in 1948. Today, you can see few in captivating as part of conservation programs, but only in this world heritage site can you see them in the wild.
9. The Land is Significant to the Maori
Pounamu, otherwise known as greenstone or jade, is found in the rivers and coastline of this world heritage site. The stone has been traditionally used by the Maori as jewellery, tools and weapons, which you can still buy (or carve yourself) today. If you’re lucky you might even find some yourself on the coast. Check out the 10 Tips to Find Greenstone in Hokitika, which can also be applied to the Haast coastline.
10. There are Heaps of NZ Parrots!
The UNESCO World Heritage Site surrounding Haast has the only large populations remaining of kaka, kakariki/yellow-crowned parakeet and the yellowhead bird. And let’s not forget about the world’s only alpine parrot, the kea!