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VII Southern Connection Congress Tours

Pre and post congress Tours

The VII Southern Connection committee is pleased to offer a selection of superb pre and post congress tours spanning the country and catering for a range of interests. Each tour addresses the theme of the conference “Southern Lands and Oceans; Life on the Edge” and the tours are led by knowledgeable guides most of whom will be participating in the conference.

The pre-conference tours run from 17th - 20th January and leave from various centres. Post conference tours run from 26th - 29/30th January and depart from Dunedin.

Please sign up for the tours as you register for the conference; the tour registration can be found under the same tab as the conference registration.

Should you require more information on a particular tour please contact us at

Numbers are limited on each tour and subject to maximum and minimum numbers so please register as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

Pre congress tours

Tour 1

Forest Ecosystems of New Zealand's North Island

The trip commences with the choice of either a visit to Rangitoto Island in Auckland harbour or the old-growth kauri forest at the Cascades area in the Waitakere ranges. The day ends at Out-in-the-Styx at Maungatautari (Waikato) where the two groups meet up.

Day 2: will be spent at Maungatautari and in and around Pureora visiting tawa forest, podocarp forest, and a 'buried forest', then on to Ruapehu, staying overnight at National Park.

Day 3: exploring Tongariro National Park (beech forest, above the timber line, volcanism, etc.) then travelling south to overnight in Palmerston North.

Day 4: involves travel from Palmerston North to Wellington with a stop at the Mt Bruce Wildlife facility, to arrive in Wellington in time for a flight for Dunedin and the conference. If time allows, a visit to  Karori Wildlife Sanctuary in Wellington will be arranged.

Trip begins Auckland
Dates 17-20 January 2013
Trip concludes Wellington
Minimum no. 10
Maximum no. 20
Cost (per person) (NZ) $430 (plus GST)
Includes Some meals and backpacker style accommodation
Trip leaders George Perry and Bruce Burns

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Tour 2

Ecological Icons around Auckland City

Based in Auckland this option comprises daily tours over four days to some wonderful ecological gems in and near New Zealand’s “City of Sails”.

Day 1: a day visit to the recent volcanic island of Rangitoto.

Day 2: visit the eco-restoration success on Tiri Tiri Matangi island wildlife sanctuary.

Day 3: the theme is "Auckland Urban Ecology", and explores South Auckland urban forest reserves (Manurewa, Papakura), the Threatened Native Plants project and Gondwana Forest project at the Auckland Botanical Gardens, finishing with a social event there.

Day 4: a visit to the impressive kauri forest at The Cascades in the nearby Waitakere Ranges. The tour ends in time to catch a late flight to Dunedin Sunday afternoon.

Dates 17-20 January 2013
Trip begins Auckland
Trip concludes Auckland
Minimum no. 10
Maximum no. 30
Cost (per person) (NZ) $480 (twin share) (plus GST)
Includes Minibus hire, ferries, motel accommodation and meals
Trip leaders Mike Wilcox and John Sawyer

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Tour 3

South Island West Coast; from Christchurch to Dunedin via the West Coast Glaciers and Rainforest

Day 1: depart Christchurch early heading west across the Canterbury Plains, cross Porters Pass and into the Castle Hill (limestone) basin to Arthurs Pass, with time in the National Park. Then we descend the spectacular Otira Gorge through coniferous-broadleaved rainforest and turn south through Hokitika and lowland podocarp-broadleaved rainforest to Franz Josef Glacier.

Day 2: we travel out to the coast at Okarito and climb to the Okarito Trig for spectacular views across the glacial outwash plain to the Southern Alps (weather permitting). Time will be spent looking at the classic chronosequence associated with this glacier before heading to Fox Glacier for the night.

Day 3: after an early morning side trip to Lake Matheson (evening or early morning depending on the weather), we travel south through the “Beech Gap” to its end near the Paringa River, then through beech-podocarp-broadleaved forest to Ship Creek and through the  coastal dune and “Dinosaur forest” nature walks before heading to Haast. A short trip south to the road end at Jackson Bay will complete the day.

Day 4: we turn inland up the Haast Valley, through an altitudinal forest sequence to Haast Pass, the lowest on the Southern Alps (640m), and the descend past Lake Wanaka into the semi-arid Central Otago region and on to Dunedin by late afternoon.

Dates 17-20 January 2013
Trip begins Christchurch
Trip concludes Dunedin
Minimum no. 20
Maximum no. 30
Cost (per person) (Twin-share basis) (NZ) $665 (plus GST)
Includes Meals
Trip leaders Peter Bellingham

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Tour 4

Maud Island, Marlborough Sounds

Maud Island is located in outer Pelorus Sound in the Marlborough Sounds. It is a scientific reserve and serves as a predator-free island sanctuary for native species. Some of these species are unique to the island and some are rare and in danger of extinction in mainland areas where non-native pests threaten their survival. It is the second-largest island reserve in the Marlborough Sounds covering around 310 hectares of regenerating coastal forest. The island’s rare and unique species commonly seen are flightless takahe, tui, blue penguin, giant Cook Strait weta, several species of geckos and skinks, and a native species of frog.

For more information see DOC: Maud Island.

Day 1: we depart from Havelock in a water-taxi for the hour-long journey to Maud Island. Accommodation on the island will be bunk-room style at Comalco Lodge.

Days 2 and 3: we will walk around the island and enjoy the views and the birds and at night there will be guided-walks into the forest to view native frogs and other nocturnal species.

Day 4: we will leave the island via water-taxi, early to mid-morning and travel via road to Dunedin.

Dates 17-20 January 2013
Trip begins Havelock in the South Island. The nearest airport is Blenheim, or road transport from Dunedin to Havelock the day before can be arranged. Please indicate preference when booking
Trip concludes Havelock or Dunedin
Minimum no. 8
Maximum no. 10
Cost (per person) (NZ) $450 (plus GST)
Includes Transport to Dunedin after field trip, water-taxi costs, food and drinks on Maud Island, permit charges and accommodation on Maud Island.
NOT included Accommodation in Havelock, alcohol, food and drinks during the journey from Havelock to Dunedin.
Trip leader Phil Bishop, Chief Scientist, IUCN Amphibian Survival Alliance

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Mid congress tours

Peninsula exploration – with Elm wildlife tours

Explore the stunning Otago peninsula, the ‘wildlife capital of New Zealand”. Elm wildlife tours will guide the group around the peninsula visiting the Royal albatross breeding site and private conservation areas.

There will be an additional charge of (NZ) $65 for this tour.

For more information on the peninsula please visit:

For tour information contact:

Orokonui Ecosanctuary

A 307-hectare native forest in Dunedin, on the east coast of the South Island, is the only Cloud Forest in New Zealand where indigenous plants and animals can live in the wild without threat from most introduced pests. It is home to some of New Zealand's most fascinating and rare forest wildlife.

The visit to Orokonui will begin with a guided tour followed by lunch. After lunch explore the Ecosanctuary until the coach returns to Dunedin.

Minimum number 10

For further information please visit: Orokonui website

For tour information contact:

Paleobotany - FULL

The Paleobotany tour is now full

Paleobotany and sedimentology of Late Cretaceous to Miocene lake and swamp deposits in Otago: using plant fossils to reconstruct the past vegetation, environments and climate of southern New Zealand. A tour of Central Otago sites guided by Daphne Lee and Uwe Kaulfuss.

Minimum number 15
Maximum number 30

For further information contact:
Daphne Lee
Email or
Uwe Kaulfuss

Dunedin Botanic Gardens

A guided tour of the garden followed by lunch and time to roam.

The Dunedin Botanic Garden, New Zealand’s oldest Botanic Garden is celebrating its 150th year in 2013. It is also the only garden in New Zealand to be heralded as a Garden of International Significance.

The 31-hectare garden has a wide range of horticultural and botanical collections, from its roses, herbaceous and perennial borders, rock garden and New Zealand native plants, to four hectares of Rhododendron Dell.

The geographic plant collections are an expression of the Victorian penchant for collecting plants from all around the world and displaying them in related groups. This collection has plants from temperate climates of North Asia, the South, Central and North Americas, Southern Africa, the Himalayas and the Mediterranean.

The New Zealand Native plant collection occupies the ridge along the upper boundary of the Garden and includes Lovelock Bush, a large area of managed native bush. An important aspect of this collection is the cultivation of rare and endangered native plant species.

For further information contact:
Alan Matchett

Macraes Conservation Area

Beginning in the late 1990s a six-year project at the Macraes Conservation Area monitored grand and Otago skinks before and during trapping operations for feral cats and ferrets. The results showed that skink numbers were still declining and population modelling suggested that both species could be functionally extinct within 10 years. However, intensive predator control, including construction of a predator-proof fence, has seen lizard populations increase and other habitat features improve.

Along with two species of endangered skinks, the area is home to a number of other native lizards together with rare plants and a rich Maori, pastoral and gold mining history. This tour will be led by Andy  Hutcheon, the Department of Conservation Grand and  Otago skinks programme Manager.

Minimum number 10

Catlins, South Otago

Visit one of the few east-coast forest remnants, 2 hrs south of Dunedin. This region offers breath-taking cliff views and mature podocarp lowland forest spilling out onto beautiful deserted beaches. Various activities may include seabird and seal colonies at the Nuggets, fossilised Jurassic forest reef and dolphins at Curio Bay, Cathedral Caves, Jack's Blowhole, bushwalks and waterfalls. High-tide is at midday, so not all of these options may be possible, depending on conditions.

The Catlins can be cool and very wet, even in January, commonly experiencing summer highs anywhere from 10 to 25C. Bring windproofs/waterproofs. This will be a long day, with 4-5 hours of driving, so it may not be possible to return in time for the public lecture.

For further information please visit: Catlins website

Maximum number 11

For further information contact:
Graham Wallis

Te Papanui Tussock Land Conservation Park

Recently established (2003) through the tenure review process currently operating over the South Island pastoral leasehold rangelands, this 20,590ha Park on the Lammerlaw-Lammermoor Ranges of the eastern Central Otago uplands (500-1150 m), contains probably the most expansive near-pristine region of subalpine-alpine tall snow tussock (Chionochloa rigida) grassland in New Zealand. Localised patches of cushion peat bogs occupy the poorly drained depressions and add to the high biodiversity values of the Park. It has been described by its managers, the Department of Conversation, as the "Waterland Park" in recognition of its high value for water production; Dunedin City obtains >60% of its water from this source. Several research projects in the area, using paired catchments, and lysimeters (both weighing and non-weighing types) have revealed yields of ~63% but reaching 80% of the annual precipitation of 1200-1600 mm at some higher elevation sites where gains from the interception fog can be significant. Good road access during the snow-free season (<1 hour's drive from Dunedin) adds to its overall value for education, interpretation and appreciation.

For further information contact:
Alan Mark

Central Otago from Lowland to High Alpine - FULL

The Central Otago tour is now full

Approaching from the east through the pip and then stone fruit orchards around Roxburgh's lowlands we turn up to the Old Man Range near Alexandra, the heart of semi-arid Central Otago. We drive up through the altitudinal climo- and soil-sequences and associated grassland types, montane short tussock through mixed short-tall tussock grassland, the alpine tall tussock, and on to the herbfields and cushionfields of the high-alpine zone to the crest at 1695m. Here we see the limited glacial cirques and a variety of periglacial features: soil hummocks and stripes, and solifluction terraces, together with some old disturbances: a century-old sheep graveyard and extensive mechanical blading of 1974, and the world's oldest (1959) experimental snowfence, all of which have been researched (publications will be available for discussion). The altitudinal sequence of snow tussocks (Chionochloa spp.) and snow tussock ecology, pure and applied, studied here since 1959, will also be discussed.

For further information contact:
Alan Mark

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Post congress tours

Tour 5

South Island Inland Mackenzie Basin; from Dunedin to Christchurch via the rain-shadow semi-arid Mackenzie Basin

Day 1: depart Dunedin early Saturday morning and travel inland through semi-arid Central Otago, past the Clyde High Dam and impounded Lake Dunstan to The Remarkables Range with a vegetation sequence into the alpine zone and spectacular views over the Queenstown-Wakatipu Basin. Over-night at Cromwell.

Day 2: we travel northwards through vineyards, and tussock grasslands over the Lindis Pass and into the southern Mackenzie Basin to Lake Ohau Lodge.

Day 3: we explore the Mackenzie Basin with its semi-arid short tussock grassland, Ahuriri Conservation Park, wilding pine problems and the controversial initiation of intensive dairying. Return to Lake Ohau Lodge.

Day 4: we cross the northern Mackenzie Basin with trips to the Tekapo Tussock Grassland Reserve, the Mt John observatory for a fantastic panorama of the basin and over Burkes Pass with a tall snow tussock reserve and out on to the Canterbury Plains and to Christchurch Airport by 5:00pm in time for an early evening connection for flights north and late departures from New Zealand.

Dates 26-29 January 2013
Trip begins Dunedin
Trip concludes Christchurch
Minimum no. 20
Maximum no. 30
Cost (per person) (Twin-share basis) (NZ) $665 (plus GST)
Includes Meals
Trip leaders Nick Ledgard

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Tour 6

South Island Catlins and Fiordland

Day 1: depart Dunedin for the southeast coast, visiting lowland podocarp-broadleaved rainforest and wildlife sites en route to Invercargill where we overnight.

Day 2: travel around the south coast and into the lower Waiau Valley visiting Lake Monowai with a drive through mixed beech (Nothofagus) rain forest to the treeline on Mt Burns. On to the Rakatu Wetlands and overnight in Manapouri.

Day 3: travel to Milford Sound, driving through the Eglinton Valley, walking the nature trail through red beech forest at Cascade Creek, then over The Divide to the spectacular upper Hollyford Valley, with silver beech rain forest and a short walk into the lower Gertrude Valley. Then through the Homer Tunnel and down the equally spectacular Cledau Valley to Milford, with a return cruise to its entrance past spectacular Mitre Peak, Sterling Falls and The Lion. Return via the same route to Manapouri and overnight.

Day 4: return to Dunedin Airport via the inland route,visiting The Wilderness Scientific Reserve of relic podocarp (Halocarpus bidwilli) woodland and Lake Mavora. Arrive in Dunedin by 4.15pm, in time for flights north.

Dates 26-29 January 2013
Trip begins Dunedin
Trip concludes Dunedin
Minimum no. 20
Maximum no. 30
Cost (per person) (Twin-share basis) (NZ) $700 (plus GST)
Includes Meals
Trip leader Alan Mark

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Tour 7

Milford Track, Fiordland National Park.

Milford Track: the finest walk in the world.

Combining stunning scenery with the flora and fauna of New Zealand’s mountainous regions, the 53km Milford Track is known as the finest walk in the world. The track passes through a diverse array of vegetation communities, including mixed beech forest, regenerating communities on slips and avalanche paths, and alpine herbfields. There are chances to see some rarer New Zealand birds including blue duck/whio, rock wren, and alpine parrots (kea). The latter are often called the ’clowns of the mountains’ for their entertaining antics, are common along the track.

For more detailed information about the track see the Milford track website.

Day 1: depart Dunedin early and drive to Te Anau; take the bus to Te Anau Downs where we catch the boat for an hour long trip up Lake Te Anau to the start of the track. First day walk is a gentle 5 km stroll through beech forest and beside the crystal clear waters of the Clinton River.

Day 2: (16.5 km) a gradual climb follows the Clinton River to its source, Lake Mintaro, at the base of Mackinnon Pass. If weather allows there will be views of the impressive Pompolona icefield. The sheer scale of the glaciated rock walls towering above on either side, as you walk up the Clinton Valley is awe-inspiring.

Day 3: (14 km) a zigzag climb leads through an altitudinal vegetation gradient to the Mackinnon Pass, with exceptional views of Lake Mintaro and the Clinton Valley along the way. This is the highest point of the track (1154 m). From here, the track drops steadily through an attractive alpine garden to the valley floor, passing several waterfalls before a short detour to stand at the bottom of the Sutherland Falls (the highest in New Zealand at 580m).

Day 4: (18 km): A gentle slight downhill walk following the Arthur River, passing by the impressive Mackay Falls, intriguing Bell Rock, and dramatic Giant Gate Falls. The track ends at Sandfly Point, where a short boat ride will take us to Milford Sound.

This trip will be independent walking (i.e. carrying a pack containing your own sleeping bag, clothing and food) so will require a moderate level of fitness. Huts are communal (capacity of c. 40) and have gas cookers and running water.

Dates 26-30 January 2013
Trip begins Dunedin
Trip Concludes Dunedin
Maximum no. 11
Cost (per person) (NZ) $500 + own food (to be confirmed) (plus GST)
Includes Transport to Te Anau from Dunedin (return); Bus to Te Anau Downs; Boat to start of track; Hut fees; Boat from end of track to Milford Sound; Bus to Te Anau; Accommodation in Te Anau night of 29 Jan.
Trip leader Jamie Wood

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Tour 8

Stewart Island

Maui’s Anchor – Stewart Island is the connection between the people of New Zealand and the Sub Antarctic. It was joined to New Zealand via a land-bridge at the last glacial maximum. But as an island with pest eradication a priority and a limited population (only 400 permanent residents)  it provides a haven and refuge for many of New Zealand iconic bird species. With early establishment of large reserves and warmer temperatures than nearby Southland, Stewart Island has a long established native vegetation. Patterson Inlet also hosts a marine reserve and Mataitai (customary marine management system). Thus Stewart Island offers a unique opportunity to observe New Zealand as it was prior to human settlement.

The trip will depart Dunedin early on Saturday to arrive in Bluff to board the Foveaux Express to the island. Accommodation on the island includes a range of hostels, motels, hotels and lodges.

Once on Stewart Island the tour offers two options, one for those with botanical interests the other for those with marine interests.

Full details of tour and costs will be available shortly.

Dates 26-29 January 2013
Trip begins Dunedin
Trip Concludes Bluff
Minimum 20
Maximum 30
Cost (per person) (plus GST)
Trip leader Botanical: Colin Meurk, Marine: Gary Wilson

© VII Southern Connections
Congress 2013

Department of Botany
University of Otago
PO Box 56
Dunedin 9054
New Zealand