Bottle Lake Forest Park is an exotic pine forest, with sand dunes and beach to the east, Spencer Park to the north and Waimairi Beach Golf Course and Parklands to the south. The name came from a bottle shaped lake now part of the local golf course.

Bottle Lake aerial; photo Bruce King. Waitikiri wetland - a mahinga kai

The people of Ngāi Tahu (Kai Tahu) and their ancestors used the Waitikiri wetlands, within the vicinity of Bottle Lake Forest, as a special area for gathering Eels (Tuna) and other fish. Māori used many coastal native plants for medicines, building materials, baskets, weaving, footwear, and weapons.

The wetlands around Bottle Lake Forest also provided a natural defence barrier against attacks from other tribes approaching from the coast.

From farming to forestry

Bottle Lake Forest was originally purchased on behalf of the New Zealand Company for pastoral purposes and called "The Sandhills Run". In 1851 farming was attempted on the Sandhills Run, but was unsuccessful due to the sparse vegetation that grew on the sandy soils.

In 1878 the City Council bought the land for disposal of toxic waste and night soil (sewage). Five years later, in 1883, the first block of forestry was planted as a trial using two exotic species; Corsican pine (Pinus laricio) and Monterey pine (Pinus insignis, later renamed Pinus radiata). There have been minimal, if any, noticeable effects from the waste site of 1878.

In 1909 the Council resumed planting Bottle Lake Forest in an attempt to stop the sand drifting across the wetlands to fertile soil areas that were used for market gardening. In the sand areas of Bottle Lake Forest a trial area was introduced for commercial tree crops. Over seven different species of pine were trialed, with Pinus radiata the preferred species.

Remnants of these early tree trials can still be seen, which include poplars, sycamores and macrocarpas. By 1935 all available land had been planted in forest except the swamp and wetlands. The first clear felling started in 1938, removing the trees that had been planted from 1913 to 1915.

Today, Christchurch City Council still owns the Bottle Lake Forest land, while the management and operation of the forest are now the responsibility of Raynoier/Matariki Forests. Trees are felled and logged in a 30 year rotation.

War history

Since 1867 Bottle Lake Forest has been used extensively as a military training ground, initially by the Mounted Calvary units of the Canterbury Yeomary and Canterbury Mounted Rifles.

During World War II the Home Guard West Battalion used the forest as a defence post. Along the foreshore an intricate system of trenches, machine gun positions, command bunkers and firing ranges were established in readiness of a Japanese invasion.

In 1940 the Council established a piggery in Bottle Lake Forest, in an effort to "do its bit" for England by providing meat to the New Zealand Home Guard, during World War II. The piggery, known as the Burwood Municipal Piggery, was very successful with usually five hundred pigs in the pens at any one time.

After the war the piggery was leased to a private operator, who continued operating until the mid-1950s, when it closed down.