Group promoting viewing of kowhai

Kowhai by name . .. South Otago Forest & Bird member Janine Thompson inspects a kowhai flower at Earthlore gardens in Hinahina, in advance of a new spring celebration of the native bloom this month. PHOTO: RICHARD DAVISON

A local conservation group wants to make kowhai the colour of spring in the Catlins.

South Otago Forest & Bird member Catriona Gower said the group’s new ‘‘kowhai viewing’’ event this month had been inspired by the popular spring tradition of cherry blossom viewing in Japan.

‘‘The idea really just grew from a social media post, with someone encouraging people to visit the Owaka Valley’s many kowhai trees while they’re in glorious yellow bloom this spring.

‘‘We ran with the idea, and it’s snowballed from there to include a family day at the Catlins Information Centre in Owaka, on October 15.’’

Such was the level of local support for the embryonic event it could become a fixture on the calendar and potentially an attraction to bring visitors to the Catlins each spring, Ms Gower said.

‘‘Just so we didn’t alarm landowners with visitors stopping and staring into their paddocks, we did a drive›round to let them know our plans.

‘‘Everyone we’ve spoken to thinks it’s a brilliant idea, with some people keen to chat to some of the passers›by and fill them in on items of local interest.’’ The viewing itself was self-guided and informal, although a map and information leaflet were available from the information centre to guide people to the best Catlins kowhai haunts.

Visitors would be encouraged to remain sensitive to lambing activity and keep to public roads at all times, as no access to private property had been granted, she said.

Fellow organiser Janine Thompson said the kowhai was a special New Zealand tree that deserved to be celebrated.

The most common kowhai on the tour was the South Island variety, but she knew of at least five others growing locally.

‘‘It’s really the New Zealand harbinger of spring, and as loved by nature as by people.

‘‘Visitors might expect to see native birds like tui in many of the kowhai on the tour, as well as butterflies and other species.’’

A prize colouring competition and exhibition will form part of the event and family day, featuring a design drawn by Mrs Thompson.

Maps and other informational materials are available at the Catlins Information Centre during the school holidays.