Just 29 of the original 5000 hectares survive, the remainder having been urbanised out of existence. Thousands of people drive past this Special Ecological Area (SEA) daily without realising what’s there, but we really need to cherish what we still have.
By far the biggest remnant is in Epsom, most on private property but a good chunk in the little-known Withiel Thomas Reserve, on Withiel Drive. Here, trees and shrubs – pohutukawa, kawakawa, puka, mangeao, tītoki and māhoe – grow virtually soil-free from a bed of rocks. King ferns too have made this home along with tūī and pīwakawaka.
There’s a fascinating article on the forest in New Zealand Geographic in which author Jennifer Wilkins refers to long-time Withiel Thomas champion, Sel Arbuckle, as a “rock-forest legend”.
The only other publicly accessible remnant is along Roy Clements Treeway in Mt Albert. It is much smaller but is equally vigorously protected by Sel and STEPS.