Oparara Wilderness

Moria Gate Arch

Moria Gate Arch; photo by Pat Wall

“Opa” is a verb and means “to throw, pelt”.
“Rara” is a verb and means “To rattle (like stones in a tin) – to make a continual dull sound , rumble”.

Break Creek left branch road winds its way towards the east in the Oparara Basin which is the introduction to the Oparara and Moria Gate limestone arches and the Honeycomb Caves formed by the waters of the Oparara River. Two of the main arches are visited by an increasing number of tourists every year.

The Oparara Valley Project


Oparara River; photo by Barry Chalmers

In 2002 and with a budget of $3.2 million, an enthusiastic group of Karamea locals decided that the area needed more development in the hope that it would be a catalyst to enticing visitors to stay in the area longer. The Oparara Valley Trust was formed and their plan was to upgrade existing tracks and create new ones including a walking track through the valley, roughly following the course of the river and eventually joining the old Fenian track which was formed in the early settlement days as a route to the imagined riches of the area’s gold reserves. The short of it is that the rich gold seams were never found in great quantities, however, the legacy of the track remains to this day.

In 2006 Patron Professor David Bellamy turned over the first piece of land and the work began.

Throughout the building of the tracks, the track gang hand cut 65,000 corduroy staves, dug 6.5km of drains, carted 6,834 tonnes of compacted gravel and spent 450 nights camped in the bush, rain and mud.

By November 2008 this remarkable achievement was finally completed on time and well within budget. 19.2km of new and upgraded tracks later, fourteen steel girder bridges, one 48m suspension bridge, a 60 vehicle carpark, four shelters, five toilets and thirteen interpretation panels had been built. Professor David Bellamy returned at the end of 2008 to cut the ribbon and officially open the track.

In 2004, the Oparara Valley Trust won the Supreme Award at the TrustPower Buller Community awards for the many hours of volunteer work that they had put in to get the project underway. In 2008 the Trust won the Heritage and Environmental section at the TrustPower Buller Community Awards for the completion of the project.

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