Jim Barnett Reserve
Thirteen different tracks meander through the Jim Barnett Reserve. The tracks are of varying lengths, but all are easy walking with a few short, steep sections, negotiable for people of most fitness levels. Dogs are discouraged in the reserve to protect the native birdlife.
There is a large camping site near the carpark or further into the reserve, both of which are equipped with a tap and picnic tables.
Each trail is sign posted to keep you on your way.
Easy walking paths through tranquil native bush.
Take the Tōtara track to see this giant thousand year old tree.
There are thirteen distinct tracks of varying lengths to choose from, allowing for a combination of routes in a single outing. These paths offer easy walking, featuring occasional short, manageable inclines suitable for most fitness levels.
At one time, this land was covered in dense forest as far as the eye could see. Then, in 186 AD, the volcanic crater we now call Lake Taupō erupted violently sending out a wave of super heated air and ash that flattened almost everything in its path. The landscape was left burnt and barren in all but a few sheltered spots.
At Waotu, a low hill diverted the destruction and a narrow strip of bush was left intact. It stood alone in a sea of regenerating tussock and shrubs until the arrival of the Māori people, who named the forest Te Waotu tahi ngā rākau. Translated this means: the tall forest that stood by itself.
The area was soon densely populated, at first by Ngāti Kahupungapunga and then, from the 16th century, by Raukawa. However, the things that made Waotu popular for the Māori people - the resources of the forest and the nearness of the mighty Waikato also attracted European settlers. By the end of the 19th century much of the shrub land had been cleared for farms and logging had begun in Waotu bush, as it was now known.
Sadly, about 90% (900ha) of Waotu Bush was gone by the 1920s. Valuable timber trees like tōtara and rimu were cut down, loaded onto wagons and pulled out by horses or bullocks along purpose-built tramways. Today only fragments remain. The largest of these is made up of the Jim Barnett Reserve and an adjoining block of covenanted land.
The Reserve was purchased from the Barnett family in 1992. It is now managed by a committee with representatives from Forest and Bird, Putāruru Rotary, Putāruru Walking Group, the South Waikato District Council and the Waotu community.
Walter Barnett was the most prominent early miller and his sons, including Jim, continued the business. Jim Barnett's family offered the 16ha as a reserve and it was formally opened on site in 1992 by the then Minister of Conservation, Dennis Marshall. The reserve is home to some impressive Tōtara and Rimu trees which remained after milling in the area stopped.
The reserve area was logged between 1900 and 1920. Since then the forest has regenerated well, with more than a little help in recent years from the Reserve Committee and a variety of community and school groups.
Today tawa, mangeao and rewarewa dominate the canopy but strands of tōtara, rimu, kahikatea, mātai and miro can also be found. Māhoe, pate and five-finger are common in the understory with lemonwood, tītoki and kohekohe in the damper gullies. Around the edge of the forest you will see large areas of retired pasture replanted with everything from tōtara to koromiko.
Many common bush birds are found in the reserve. Kererū (native pigeons) often fly overhead and tui and makomako (bell birds) can be heard. Fantails often follow along in your footsteps and you might be lucky enough to hear the high pitched call of the tiny grey warbler. Other wildlife, like insects and worms, are less visible but are still an important part of the system.
The Jim Barnett Reserves Management Committee is a dedicated team of individuals who have put in countless volunteer hours at the reserve, clearing tracks, building amenities and managing work crews that maintain the tracks.
As well as all the replanting, the committee also carries out intensive possum control in the reserve. This has made a great difference to the bush and the bird life, as possums feed on eggs, young chicks and the leaves of palatable trees such as five-finger. Other work has included weed control and fencing to keep out stock.
Freedom camping is welcomed at Jim Barnett Reserve.
A permit is required through this quick and easy process.
There are water taps and a toilet situated around the main camping area located near the large carpark.