Pūtaringamotu/Riccarton Bush

Kahikatea buttress roots Kelvin McMillanresize

Natural and cultural history

Pūtaringamotu/Riccarton Bush has significant natural and cultural heritage. The trees in Pūtaringamotu/Riccarton Bush include kahikatea, totara, matai and hinau, some of which are 600 years old and descendants of a 6000-year-old floodplain forest. A number of native climbing plants, ferns and mosses are also found here. Fossil records show that the bush was once home to kiwi, takahe and moa. Pūtaringamotu was also a valuable food and timber source for Ngāi Tahu before European settlement.

Read more about the history of the Ngāi Tahu in Pūtaringamotu/Riccarton Bush on the Christchurch City Libraries website(external link).

The Deans family

The first successful European settlers to Pūtaringamotu were the Deans brothers, William and John, who emigrated to New Zealand from Scotland in the 1840s. They renamed their area of settlement Riccarton after their home in Ayrshire, Scotland and renamed the Otakaro River the Avon after the river that ran by their grandfather's property in Lanarkshire. After agreeing to give up half of their bush settlement to the Canterbury Association, they used the timber in their own half carefully. Some kahikatea and matai was used to frame their buildings but only dead or fallen timber was used as firewood and fencing. In the meantime, the half they gave up was completely cleared by 1851. In 1914, the Deans family presented the remaining bush to the people of Canterbury under one condition: that it be preserved for all time in its natural state.  

Read more about the history of the Deans family and Riccarton Bush on the Christchurch City Libraries website(external link).

Visitor information

The 12 hectares of native bush is protected by a predator-proof fence. It is home to weta and used as a creche for kiwis to learn how to survive on their own before being released into the wild. Be sure to take a wander around the short, accessible track through the bush. As well as native bush, the site features two historic buildings – Deans Cottage and the Homestead – a restaurant, ornate gardens and parkland. The grounds can be explored at leisure.

The historic homestead operates guided tours at 2pm, Monday to Friday, and at 11am and 2pm on Sundays, for a fee. Visit over 20 rooms, which have been restored, decorated and furnished in period style and display many original family items. Visit the Riccarton House and Bush(external link) website run by the Riccarton Bush Trust for more information.