The area around Lake Tūtira in Northern Hawke’s Bay is steeped in history; none more so than the Guthrie-Smith Arboretum and Education Centre.

Overlooking the picturesque lake is the 90 hectare property which is the remains of the original 25,000 hectare Tūtira Station, owned and made famous by naturalist, author, farmer, conservationist and philanthropist, Herbert Guthrie-Smith, who died in 1940.

His books and photography, especially Tutira: The Story of a New Zealand Sheep Station, graphically document the impacts of human activity on New Zealand’s unique environment. After the First World War, over 5,000 hectares of the station was subdivided for soldier re-settlement.

Two years after his death, his daughter Barbara gifted the homestead and 800 hectares to the Guthrie-Smith Trust. This was to benefit New Zealanders for educational and recreational purposes and to preserve and protect the historical heritage of the land and buildings. Since then the property and its amenities have been under the stewardship of the Trust. The majority of the gifted land was sold to the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council in 1997.

There is an arboretum with some 20,000 trees which, since 2013, has been open to the public with free admission on Sundays from October to May (9 am–5 pm). Trees from many countries can be seen, appreciated and studied, and it is an important and significant source for many plant species. The property is an ecologically important haven for a wide section of native birds.

The Guthrie-Smith Education Centre offers a multi-faceted learning environment for all age groups, with a wide variety of programmes, including a unique environmental education programme. It is a very popular destination for school camps and no wonder … not only is it situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty, there are plenty of activities on offer. These include a mud walk & river walk, high and low ropes, camping & fire pits, arboretum walk, orienteering, raft building, flying Kiwi, nightline, tramping, canoeing and kayaking. 

The Centre can provide accommodation and catering for as many as 50 people. Subject to availability, it is accessible to all groups interested in greater understanding and enjoyment of all aspects of the natural environment.

Photos: David Belcher

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