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Wilderness wonder falls foul of vandals

A pristine wilderness area that’s one of the region’s most popular visitor attractions is being regularly damaged by vandals.

The Patuna Chasm in South Wairarapa is visited by thousands every year, and every year a part of the fragile ecosystem is destroyed by some of those visitors.

The walk through the chasm is operated by Alan Wilkinson and his wife Alison Tipler, who own the adjacent Patuna farm.

The three-hour amble along the Ruakokoputuna River takes in the limestone chasm, which was formed over more than a million years, and wends past ancient fossils and stalactites, as well as local flora and fauna.

Considered the highlight of the walk, the limestone cliffs overarching the gorge are now regularly being defaced by graffiti, with visitors gouging their names and other phrases into the delicate mossy surface of the stone.

“I feel disappointed I live in a society that can be so stupid as to spoil a beautiful natural place,” Wilkinson said.

“I can’t get my head around it – why would you do it?”

Although only a small percentage of visitors are responsible for the damage, it is a regular and ongoing problem, with people carving out parts of the rocky exterior every year and graffiti inscribed deeply into the moss, lichen and limestone surfaces.

Fortunately, “it does recover” from the vandalism, Wilkinson said.

“We and nature reduce the damage every winter, but traces always remain. Then in late Spring, people start doing it again. It’s so unnecessary. There’s absolutely no point in it whatsoever.”

Visitors to the chasm are asked not to deface the area in any way and are encouraged to tell people to stop if they notice others doing it.

Patuna Chasm walks will run until about the end of March. More information, including how to book, is at www.patunafarm.co.nz

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