Just a short drive out of Palmerston North is the Ashhurst Domain, where pathways run beside the snaking Manawatū River and into thriving native bush.
“Looking at old photos, they indicate that the bush there now is probably very old,” says Palmerston North City Council’s senior parks officer Brian Way. “There are some really ancient trees in there.”
Keep an eye out for the maidenhair fern, which is unique to the region, and the thriving mudfish in the murky swamp-like area.
Te Āpiti/Manawatū Gorge, not far from the Ashhurst Domain, is a good leg-stretcher where dramatic greywacke ranges give way to native vegetation, like that famous local fern.
The Arapuke Forest Park offers another creature unique to Manawatū, and this one fits in with the relaxed pace of life in Palmy: a local species of the Powelliphanta snail, a large carnivorous snail with the ultimate tiny home on its back.
“There are a lot of them out at Arapuke Park and they are just out there doing their thing in the wild,” says Way. “We maintain a pest control programme at the park and part of the reason for that is to give the snail the greatest chance of survival.”
You might be able to spot the snail on the Pupurahi shared trail (it’s designed for cyclists, walkers and scooterers, but not cars), but it involves a steep climb to the top of the park.
Up past Massey University at Aokautere, along Moonshine Valley Road, is the small Tutukiwi Reserve, which is named after an equally teeny green native orchid that flowers between October and December.
“If you pick it up and you look at it side-on, it looks like a kiwi,” says Way.
There are hidden little pockets of green everywhere in the city, and there is good work happening to keep them healthy, such as water culverts being renewed to make life easier for migratory freshwater crayfish/kōura, eels/tuna and whitebait/inanga.
“By doing this we are enhancing fish passage and also looking after biodiversity in the streams.”
Green corridor plantings, established over 20 years ago, are really starting to thrive and assist with native bird habitat.
“Community groups do the planting of those areas,” says Way. “Where we have controlled the weeds, you can start to see understorey species coming in naturally, which the birdlife loves. The idea is to have a continuous corridor of vegetation for the birds through the city.”
He Ara Kotahi, another shared pathway, plays its part, and it is possible to see kārearea, pheasants, herons, piwakawaka, tūī, kererū, mallard and pūtangitangi/paradise shelducks.
Visit manawatunz.co.nz/palmy to download the Palmy Pathways booklet and find a walk that’s right for you.