Fishtail Ecological District


Last Modified: 14-8-2023 20:44

Richmond Range
Richmond Range
Fishtail ecological district incorporates much of the Richmond Range
© Christopher Cookson  License this image

Fishtail Ecological District extends from the Onamalutu catchment in the east, to the Goulter catchment in the west, with the Wairau River as the southern boundary, and the northern peaks of the Richmond Range forming the northern boundary. 

Geology and Climate

Fishtail Ecological District is a region of greywacke and schist mountains to the north of the Wairau River, incorporating much of the Richmond Range. Numerous streams drain into the Wairau, and the westernmost part of the district includes significant glacial deposits. Soils tend to be stoney and acidic with low fertility apart from on alluvial river flats. Lake Chalice is an alpine lake caused by an ancient landslide that dammed the Goulter River.

The climate is cool partially due to altitude, with significant areas above 1000 metres, with relatively high rainfall, on average between 1000-1600mm per year. Normally the highest peaks will experience some snowfall several days a year.


At lower altitudes, beech forest is the predominant indigenous vegetation, although significant areas have been planted in exotic radiata pine. At higher altitudes alpine shrubs including Hebes and Celmisia are present, and there are some areas of tussock grassland. Wilding connifers are a problem in the district, with douglas firs a significant invasive species. Lower river flats have been cleared for pastoral farming or viticulture. Some mixed podocarp forest is present in river flats; there is a small remnant of mature podocarps in the Onamalutu Valley. Several indigenous orchid species are present.Numerous ferns and bryophytes can be found on the forest floor, and a range of fungi are found both in mycorrhizal association with trees, and as decomposers on dead plant matter, or in some cases as plant pathogens.

Trees and Shrubs

Some of the trees and shrubs present


Some of the ferns present:


A variety of bird species can be found throughout the district, including South Island robins, piwakawaka (fantails) and korimako (bellbirds).

Marlborough green geckos have also been recorded in the area.

A wide variety of  invertebrates are present.

Wild goats, pigs, and possums are present.

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Cite this page

Cookson, C. (2023). Fishtail Ecological District. Retrieved May, 29, 2024, from