Te Wahipounamu – UNESCO Heritage in New Zealand



Te Wähipounamu – South West New Zealand covers 10% of New Zeland’s landmass (2.6 million hectares) and is spread over a 450km strip extending inland 40 – 90km from the Tasman Sea. Te Wahipounamu exhibits many classic examples of the tectonic, climatic, and glacial processes that have shaped the earth. The great Alpine Fault divides the region and marks the contact zone of the Indo-Australian and Pacific continental plates making it one of only three segments of the world’s major plate boundaries on land. The site incorporates four national parks: Aoraki/Mt Cook, Fiordland, Mt Aspiring and Westland. In 1990, listed in UNESCO Heritage list.


Located in the south-west corner of New Zealand’s’ South Island.

About Te Wahipounamu

1. Overwhelmingly a mountainous wilderness, including significant Piedmont surfaces in the north-west glaciation, both historic and modern, is a dominant landscape feature. Spectacular landforms include: the 15 fiords which deeply indent the Fiordland coastline; a sequence of 13 forested marine terraces progressively uplifted more than 1000m along the Waitutu coastline over the past million years.

2. As the largest and least modified area of New Zealand’s natural ecosystems, the flora and fauna has become the world’s best intact modern representation of the ancient biota of Gondwana. The distribution of these plants and animals is inextricably linked to the dynamic nature of the physical processes at work in the property.

3. The region contains outstanding examples of plant succession after glaciation, with sequences along altitudinal (sea level to permanent snowline), latitudinal (wet west to the dry east), and chronological gradients (fresh post-glacial surfaces to old Pleistocene moraines).

4. Te Wähipounamu contains many of the natural features which contribute to New Zealand’s international reputation for superlative landscapes: its highest mountains, longest glaciers, tallest forests, wildest rivers and gorges, most rugged coastlines and deepest fiords and lakes, as well as the remnant of an extinct volcano in Solander Island. The temperate rainforests of the property are unmatched in their composition, extent and intactness by any such forests anywhere in the world.

5. A continuum of largely unmodified habitats, the property exhibits a high degree of geodiversity and biodiversity. Fresh-water, temperate rainforest and alpine ecosystems are all outstandingly well represented over an extensive array of landforms and across wide climatic and altitudinal gradients. Notable examples of on-going biological processes can be found in the large expanses of temperate rainforest, the plant succession after glacial retreat, soil/plant chronosequences on beach ridges, plant succession on alluvial terraces, vegetation gradients around the margins of glacial lakes and ecotypic differentiation of plants on ultramafic soils.

Best Time to Visit

December to May are good time to visit New Zealand and Te Wahipounamu. December – The start of summer, warm weather and a buzz in the air leading up to the holidays. Fall in March, April and May, New Zealand is gorgeous at this time and one of the best times to plan your New Zealand vacation.


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