Hukutaia Domain is a 4.5 hectare reserve with remnant native bush and numerous native plants and trees gathered from all parts of New Zealand and offshore islands. It was set aside as a reserve in 1918, mainly to protect an ancient puriri tree, Taketakerau, also known as the burial tree. The tree is estimated to be over 2000 years old, and the hollow base was used by the local Upokorehe to store the bones of their distinguished, deceased members.
A keen local botanist, Norman Potts, collected plants from all over New Zealand for the reserve between 1930 to 1970, with the work continued by Marc Heginbotham until 1990. It is now cared for by the volunteer Hukutaia Domain Care Group. Some information about the reserve can be found on the Opotiki information web site.
Hukutaia Domain is located about 8 km from Opotiki, near the southern end of Woodlands Road. A short, narrow driveway leads from Woodlands Road to a parking area by the entrance to the Domain, where there are rest areas, picnic tables, and public toilets. A set of walking tracks runs through the domain, with 3 loop tracks of varying length. The shortest of these has no steps, but there are numerous steps and boardwalks on the other two loops.
The longest track, the red loop track, runs near the boundary of the domain, starting and ending at the domain entrance at the south-western corner of the reserve. The green track is a short track joining the two sides of the red loop, thus forming a short loop without any steps, and marked as a 12-minute walk. It is about 475 metres long. It passes Taketakerau on the way.
The blue track is another short track joining the two sides of the red loop track, forming a slightly longer loop marked as a 15-minute walk. The loop including the blue track is about 600 metres long. The red track is marked as 20 to 25 minutes walking time, and is about 900 metres long.
The entry to the Hukutaia Domain off Woodlands Road, with a kauri tree marking each side of the driveway entry.
Looking back down the driveway from the car park. The driveway is narrow and there are only a few places where two vehicles can pass, so care is required.
The entry to Hukutaia Domain, with an information panel giving details of the reserve. Brochures are available at the information panel. There is no entry fee for access.
The information panel, including a diagram of the tracks leading through the reserve, and a description of Taketakerau.
The carved entrance portal, and memorial plaques to Norman Potts and Marc Heginbotham on the two gate pillars.
The reserve is smoke-free, and dogs are not allowed. Plant parts should not be removed, and birds should not be fed.
The tracks are well marked. There are markers at each junction where the green and blue tracks branch off from the red perimeter track.
Boardwalks protect the roots of some sensitive plant species adjacent to the track.
A hole through the remains of an old tree stump, with the trunk of a marked kauri tree on the left.
The reserve contains several old and large trees. Here a large puriri near the northern end of the reserve.
Many of the plants and trees have clear identification panels, giving the species name, source, and when they were planted.
Views towards Opotiki and the coast near the northern end of the reserve.
There is an elevation difference of about 18 metres between the highest point on the red track by the entrance, and the lowest point near the north-eastern end of the reserve. There are well-constructed steps on the steeper parts of the track.
The information panel at Taketakerau.
The base of Taketakerau, with two carved figures on the far left and far right standing as guardians of the sacred tree.
A view of the other side of Taketakerau, showing the hollow base.
The GPS tracklog shows the track locations. Since there is dense vegetation cover in the reserve the GPS accuracy is not optimal. The red track was walked in a clockwise direction, with the green and blue tracks walked in both directions, starting and ending at their eastern ends. The total distance walked was about 1.2 kms, for a total time of 30 minutes, including time for photos.
The topographic map excerpt shows the Hukutaia Domain and surrounding area.
The aerial image from Google Maps shows the Hukutaia Domain, with the driveway and the dense vegetation in the reserve clearly visible.
The tracks were walked on April 14, 2019.