Grade
Easy with a short steep scramble
Distance
2km
Walking
45 minutes
No dogs on this trail
Information for this trail was last updated July 2024

Longbush Reserve is a rare surviving strip of tall lowland tawa/kohekohe/titoki/karaka/kahikatea forest on the edge of the Waimatā River. It is reached by following the winding Riverside Road for 9km from Gisborne. This special spot by the river has for decades been known by Gisborne residents as a favourite summertime picnic and swimming spot. 

Streams from the adjacent steep hill country flow through Longbush Reserve and one of these is crossed by an elegant wooden bridge built by staff and students at Eastern Institute of Technology and designed by Jeremy Salmond QSO. The bush is alive with the sound of birds, including tūī, bellbirds, fantails, kingfishers, tomtits, whiteheads and many kererū, which thrive here because of the low numbers of possums, stoats, rats, and wild cats. Seeds and fruit from the forest trees, which would normally be eaten by possums and rats, are available for birds to eat and disperse, and germinating seedlings and saplings carpet the forest floor.

Being a QEII National Trust Covenant, this reserve is on private land, but thanks to the generosity of the owners, Dame Anne (and the late Jeremy) Salmond, it is open to the public. Please respect this private land. Stay on the tracks, don't disturb pest traps, and take care of this precious forest reserve.

 

 

History of the trail

When the first Europeans arrived in the district, the flats and foothills in the Waimatā valley were covered with fern or gardens, with dense lowland bush in the valleys and inland. The name of this place is "Waikererū", for the flocks of kererū that live in the forest.

A small unfortified village once stood on the low hill at Waikererū (Pā Hill), looking up and down the Waimatā River, with pits for kūmara or possibly potatoes dug into the summit and one of the terraced spurs. Refer to Waikererū website

The hills had been grazed since soon after 1860 when local iwi began leasing the land to European farmers for sheep farming. In 1885, the ownership of the Whataupoko No.9 block, including Waikererū, passed to the New Zealand Native Land Settlement Company and was available for purchase. From that time, Waikererū Station (3300 acres) was worked as a pastoral farm. Dame Anne and Jeremy Salmond bought Longbush (10ha) along with a further 110ha of rough farmland at Waikererū in 2000. Since they stopped grazing, the steep hills have regenerated naturally, and are now covered in tall kānuka. Dame Anne says kererū travelling between Longbush, an arboretum of native trees that they have planted in their garden, and the surrounding hills are effectively and naturally dispersing seeds.

Tips & Logistics

Drive (or cycle) carefully along Riverside Road from Gisborne - there are a few dropouts where the road is reduced to a single lane, and the road becomes a gravel road before you reach Longbush. There is room to park, or lock your bike, on the grassy verge at the entrance to Longbush Reserve.