Posted By QEII National Trust | May 20, 2024

Well-known to locals and visitors alike, Taniwha Gully in South Canterbury is a precious site containing some very important Māori rock art. The land has now been protected with a QEII covenant, safeguarding the future of the site, forever.

Plantings growing up through the grass with a view of the property

Phil Brownie of the Ngāi Tahu Māori Rock Art Trust organised an event in February to mark the registration of the covenant and recognise this milestone.

“Taniwha Gully has taken nearly 14 years to achieve this status, but good things do take time,” says Rob Smith, QEII regional rep for South Canterbury.

“QEII is committed to preserving in perpetuity the open space values of the land and in this case that includes both indigenous flora and historic places. This land contains some very important rock art that requires careful monitoring and needs to be well looked after.”

Ngāi Tahu Māori Rock Art Trust took over the lease of Taniwha Gully in 2010 and has since undertaken extensive revegetation projects and developed the site as an attraction for visitors to learn about the early cultural and natural history of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Māori rock art of taniwha at Taniwha Gully in South Canterbury
The taniwha rock art drawing, which some might recognise from being featured on a postage stamp. Photo provided by Rob Smith

The new 7-hectare covenant has limestone bluffs with remnant rare vegetation, is known for bat roosting sites, and is a Significant Natural Area (SNA) in the Timaru district. There is a great deal “going on” with tens of thousands of plants locally ecosourced and planted with the help of many agencies, ably coordinated by Phil Brownie.

Phil has been coming out to this site for nearly 20 years as a volunteer as well as working with the Rock Art Trust. The Trust runs guided tours from Timaru to Taniwha Gully, which is a pleasant 20-minute drive from the port. After a 15-minute walk through the restored wetland and gully to the rock art, visitors are then treated to interpretation of the many drawings that can be found here. The Taniwha drawing above may be familiar to older generations as it was once featured on a postage stamp.

Vegetation alongside a path
Revegetation with paths leading to the rock art where before it was a weed-filled gully. Photo credit: Rob Smith

Now that Taniwha Gully is protected in perpetuity, the covenant status has helped with the ongoing funding applications for restoration of the site. The knowledge that the site will be protected forever gives supporters confidence in the continuing preservation and restoration of this special place.

Those shown in the feature image of this article: Rob Smith QEII rep for South Canterbury, Amanda Symons and Phil Brownie of Ngāi Tahu Māori Rock Art Trust