Fergusons Bush reserve now 'an eyesore'

By Laura Mills

Rimu tree. Photo / file
Rimu tree. Photo / file

It has featured on postcards, been snapped by tourists worldwide, and now the famous bush corridor just south of Ross has lost a bit of its majesty after scores of trees were toppled in the Easter storm.

Fergusons Bush scenic reserve boasts one of the most recognisable scenic drives on the West Coast, through a rimu forest hundreds of years old.

However, the April 17 storm has left large gaps on both sides of the road.

Ted Brennan, who lives nearby at Bold Head, rode through the area soon after the storm and was 'blown away' by the size of the fallen trees.

"Rimu probably 600 or 700 years old have blown completely over, or snapped. Looking from the highway, the destruction was quite amazing,'' Mr Brennan said.

Although wind-throw was a natural phenomenon, this was not something mother nature had not done in living memory, he said.

Lifetime resident Jim Ferguson - whose grandfather and Westland County councillor set aside Fergusons Bush over a century ago - said the highway was now a bit of an "eyesore'', though it would regenerate. Big pockets were left where all the trees had fallen over.

"One would hit the other and they came down like a pack of cards,'' Mr Ferguson said.

Newer trees planted on his farm, which were 60 or 70 years old, also tumbled in the wind, though his corner was more protected.

"It felled a lot of old trees,'' he said, many of them rimu. Mr Ferguson said he had to look after himself in the wind, as limbs fell down around him.

The noise of the trees falling, and the howling wind "drowned the other [out] a bit''.

Neighbour Jean Douglas' farm is protected by a slope, but she could hear the wind roaring overhead: "It was very noisy.''

Some big old trees were down by the highway, and she noticed that kahikatea had been affected.

A few years ago, the group charged with coming up with West Coast Marine Reserves noted "with the adjoining Fergusons Bush scenic reserve, Shearer Swamp forms part of an increasingly rare example of a relatively intact succession from virgin lowland podocarp forest to unmodified inland swamp which eventually progresses into tidal lagoon''.

Mr Brennan also walked up Mount Greenland, behind Ross, and said he could see where the wind had come across from the Mikonui, over the saddles and been funnelled through Jones Creek, and also Donnelly's Creek.

He said if you stood in Ross late in the day as the light hit the hill, you could see great areas where podocarps stood until just over a fortnight ago.

Associate Primary Industries Minister Jo Goodhew was in the West Coast today to survey the damage.

-The Greymouth Star

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