Robert "Mutt" Lange and the Mahu Whenua Story

The Mahu Whenua Story

In 2015, Robert 'Mutt' Lange, in an extraordinary act of generosity, placed four QEII National Trust protective covenants, over 90% of his land, which comprises four former high-country sheep stations between Wanaka and Arrowtown this is now collectively known as Mahu Whenua. Mutt Lange is a South African record producer, mainly known for his work in rock music as well as his previous marriage to Canadian singer Shania Twain.

QEII National Trust protective covenants

The QEII National Trust is like a superhero for special places on private land....

The Trust works with landowners to set up protective covenants. Think of a covenant as a legal agreement between the landowner and the Trust. It says that the landowner will agree to take care of the special features of the land, like the forest or wetland, and the Trust helps ensure it's protected "in perpetuity" - which means forever!


In 2015, the QEII National Trust announced Robert Lange would place 90% of his High Country Stations’ land area under open space covenants, a decision then-Minister of Conservation Nick Smith hailed as an "extraordinary act of generosity", we say - what a dude!

Covering a staggering 53,000 hectares (130,965 acres), Mahu Whenua is the largest conservation effort on private land in New Zealand, with Arrowtown as the only residential area bordering it.

The name Mahu Whenua means ‘healing the land’, reflecting the desire to return the landscape to its natural state after many decades of destructive sheep farming. There is a robust programme to keep wilding conifers in check so that the natural ecosystem can regenerate.

Public access is an important part of Mahu Whenua. In addition to the creation of the Motatapu Track in 2008, more than 20 tracks for walking and mountainbiking are being either upgraded or built from scratch.

For More Information see 

old hut

Reforestation of The Mahu Whenua QEII National Trust by the Arrowtown Choppers 

The Arrowtown Choppers are a volunteer group dedicated to the removal of the wilding conifers and native revegetation work around Arrowtown.

To date, volunteers (including staff from First Light Travel and our sister company New Zealand Trails) have cleared over 100 hectares (247 Acres) of wilding trees and re-planted over 20,000 native trees, including Beech, Totara, Ribbonwood and Kowhai.

Arrowtown Choppers has set up the Arrowtown Community Tree Nursery to grow the seedlings to be planted out, and FLT is the major financial sponsor of the Nursery. 

The long-term goal of the Arrowtown Choppers and the Arrowtown Community Tree Nursery is to see native forest regeneration behind Arrowtown. This includes the introduction of key missing native forest species that were once present. This in turn will help increase the habitat for a range of native birds, lizards, and insects, enriching our biodiversity.

The hills behind Arrowtown have some of the highest densities of falcon in the country due to our mosaic of shrubland, tussock grassland, and beech forest.

Like all healthy eco systems their is a role for all species to play. Small bird species like miromiro/tomtits, piwakawaka/fantails, and korimako/bellbirds help scatter seeds and vegetation and provide a food source for karearea/falcon parents and chicks.

In combination with Predator Free Arrowtown, we hope to eventually establish enough forest so that other birds like kea, kaka, and robin can eventually be reintroduced to the area.

Positive Benefits in Action

This reforestation project will have many benefits, including:

  • long-term carbon sequestration
  • tourism businesses being part of the solution for carbon reduction
  • opportunities for applied research and teaching
  • extension of the Arrowtown Outer Green Belt
  • public access to forested areas and walking tracks
  • establishing working relationships between DOC, the Council, and the public
  • opportunities for staff and clients to engage in volunteer activities
Arrowtown Choppers

Join us on the journey of reducing our environmental footprint.

First Light Travel and our sister company New Zealand Trails are committed to reducing our environmental footprint. Our carbon measurement and offset program to date has allowed us to plant over 3000 native Beech trees.

You can opt-in and help for as little as $NZ5pp (US$3) - or not, it's ok, we are going to do it anyway. This year we donated $NZ10,000 (that's 3,333 trees) and volunteered a lot of labor - and we intend to do better next and every other year.


Brent Narbey
Brent Narbey
: 27 Oct 2023 (Last updated: 16 Jul 2024)

Download Our Free NZ Travel Guide

Get our free guide which is full of actionable tips and information about how to make the most of your time in New Zealand.

Blog archives

Pricing terms

The price is based on current exchange rates but is only an approximation. Please contact us for a final price