Mirror Tarn viewing platform
Image: Miquel Dijkstra | DOC


The Provincial Growth Fund investment at the Ōparara Basin in Kahurangi National Park will ensure the natural heritage arches and cave ecosystems of the area are protected for future generations.

About the Ōparara Basin

The Ōparara Basin is one of the finest features of Kahurangi National Park. It is 20 kilometres north of Karamea in the Buller District on the West Coast.

For a million years the Ōparara River has sculpted the 35 million-year-old limestone basin into caves, arches and channels. These features include Box Canyon, Moria Gate and Ōparara Arch.

The surrounding forest is a mixture of beech and podocarp trees, thickly carpeted with mosses and ferns.

Birds, insects, and fish flourish in the environment, which is home to the rare long-tailed bat, the giant land snail Powelliphanta, the Nelson cave spider, and whio/blue duck. The Ōparara Basin is a great spotted kiwi sanctuary.

All insects, fossils, native birds and plant species are protected.

Project background

The Ōparara Basin is a popular destination for visitors – 11,000 people visited in the 2017/18 year.

Facilities were improved in 2008 but wear-and-tear and increasing visitor numbers have meant that further upgrades are needed.

In 2018 the Ōparara Valley Trust and Tourism West Coast sought funding from the Provincial Growth Fund for the Ōparara (Arches) Project and received $5.7 million. The Prime Minister approved this funding in late 2018.

The project seeks to improve the visitor infrastructure at the Ōparara Basin, with a focus on the deteriorating McCallums Mill Road and Ōparara Arch Track.

Improving the facilities will make visiting the Ōparara Basin safe and sustainable and will provide additional protection to the unique natural features.

The project also affirms Ngāti Waewae as guardians of the Ōparara Basin.

The Department of Conservation leads this project, since all the components fall within the boundaries of the conservation estate, but DOC has partnered with the Ōparara Valley Trust and Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Waewae who are kaitiaki of this rohe (area).

What we're doing

McCallums Mill Road upgrade for visitor safety – 9 km completed over 2022/2023, completion work 2024:

  • Replacement culverts to strengthen the road against weather damage.
  • Widening of some road sections to improve visitor safety and reduce vehicle incidents by providing passing bays and better visibility.

McCallums Mill Road viewing area and interpretation site - completed.

Ōparara Basin track and structures construction

  • Honeycomb Hill Caves security and monitoring upgrade – completed.
  • Box Canyon carpark toilet upgrade to a flush toilet – completed.
  • Ōparara Arch Track upgrade to meet visitor safety standards and improve visitor experience – completed. 
  • Mirror Tarn Track extension back to the main Ōparara carpark – completed.
  • Mirror Tarn viewing structure – completed.
  • Installation of inground steps in the entrance to Moria Gate – completed.

Project documents

Media releases

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