Location and Values: The Te Wahipounamu – South West New Zealand world heritage site covers an extensive complex of adjacent national parks and protected areas in the southwest corner of New Zealand’s South Island. It is a mountainous wilderness of outstanding scenic beauty, with snow-capped mountains, glaciers, fiords, forests, tussock grasslands, lakes, wild rivers, waterfalls and wetlands. Two-thirds of the park is covered in temperate rainforests, with ancient stands of southern beech and Podocarpus trees, representing the world’s best modern example of the ancient biota that once covered the supercontinent of Gondwana. These forests provide habitat for an extensive range of New Zealand’s unique endemic fauna, including the kea (an alpine parrot), takahe (a large flightless bird), and two species of kiwi (also flightless birds). The kakapo (the world’s rarest and heaviest parrot) survived in the area until the early 1980s, but is probably now restricted to small populations on isolated offshore islands.
Conservation Status and Prospects. According to IUCN’s Conservation Outlook Assessment (2017) the conservation status of Te Wahipounamu – South West New Zealand is ‘good, with some concerns’. The IUCN report notes that the greatest threat is from invasive alien animals browsing indigenous vegetation and predating on wildlife, particularly birds. Current programmes for monitoring and control of these pests are only being applied in localized parts of the site. Less significant threats exist in specific parts of the site from (1) the grazing of domestic livestock; (2) mining operations; (3) a growing demand for tourism facilities development, including new road corridors and increased aircraft access; and (4) the potential for water export. In the longer term, climate change is likely to impact vegetation distribution, and contribute to habitat fragmentation, alien species invasion, and the already marked reduction in the volume of permanent ice.
UNESCO Official Website
IUCN Conservation Outlook
UNEP-WCMC Site Description