Wairere Boulders is a geological nature park planned and constructed by Felix and Rita Schaad in 1999. The walkways were built between 2000 and 2003. Wairere Boulders allows visitors to see the large basalt boulders many with rare and spectacular solution features (karst) on the outside that are scattered all over the property of the Schaads, a Swiss couple who emigrated to New Zealand in 1983.
There are several walks ranging from 40 minutes to a maximum walking time of two hours. The gigantic rocks are surrounded by subtropical rainforest. There are some information panels along the track and lots of trees are labelled in Maori and English.
Part of the farmed area is open for bouldering, which has become more and more popular in recent years. The bouldering area is vast and offers climbing to beginners and experienced boulderers.
The Wairere Boulders are located at 70 McDonnell Road (the end of the road), at Wairere, a small ancient settlement near Horeke in the Hokianga, in the far north of New Zealand. The walks are through the Wairere valley which features an unusually large assemblage of basalt rocks.
The Schaads undertook to create private walkways in highly dangerous surroundings. Therefore, they had to overcome many legal and design obstacles. As Felix was a registered civil engineer, he was able to design the 24 bridges, ramps and stairs and a viewing platform to NZ building standards to guarantee the safety of the visitors.
In March 2000 they got approval and construction started. It took 4 years of hard labour. They dug and metalled all tracks by hand. Also, they singlehandedly built all 25 structures themselves. After rigorous compliance tests by the Far North District Council, the Wairere Boulders finally opened towards end of 2003.
The Wairere Boulders have rolled down the hillsides from an eroding Pliocene basalt lava flow of the Kerikeri Volcanic Group formerly known as Horeke basalts. Many of the boulders have deep solution basins and fluting formed on their surfaces - a particularly good example of the relatively rare phenomenon of karst formation on basalt (sometimes known as proto-karst). This phenomenon was documented by geologists as early as the 1920s-1940s in Hawaii and New Zealand. Usually karst landforms are formed by solution of calcareous rocks (e.g. limestone and marble) by mildly acidic percolating water. At Wairere, and elsewhere, basalt has been dissolved, probably over a much longer interval of time, by the production of weakly acidic humic acid in the leaf litter that collects around the roots of plants that grow on the top of the boulders, usually beneath a forest canopy. On the top of the boulders this humic acid has etched out solution basins 20–50 cm across and of similar depth. Humic acid seeping down the sides of the boulders has, over thousands of years, dissolved deep, near-vertical flutes out of the hard basalt. In some places the fluting is no longer vertical as the boulders have rolled over or tilted since it was formed. Basalt karst occurs in a number of places in northern New Zealand with some of the best examples at Wairere Boulders, but also at Stoney Batter, Waiheke Island; Ti Pt, Leigh; Lake Manuwai, Kerikeri; and Stoney Knowe, Helena Bay. Excellent examples of karst features developed on basalt boulders can be seen on Norfolk Island, Tasman Sea.
To get known was a bigger hurdle than to build all the structures, dig and metal the tracks. At least a hundred invitations were written to journalists with an offer of a free guided tour. Also familiarisation was organised for staff of information centres, other tourism operators and accommodation providers. PR started even before construction was completed and only a part of the tracks could be visited. One of the first articles was published already in December 2002 in the tourism paper Look North. Just before the official opening some major newspapers and magazines started to write about the Wairere Boulders. On 12 March 2003, the Dominion of Wellington, on 18 Sept 2003 The Northland Age.
From then on many other papers followed and alerted scientists to the odd nature of the basalt blocks in the Wairere valley as well as the great opportunity to see them on the walking tracks through the Wairere Boulders. e.g. on 1 March 2008 the The Northern Advocate. In 2008 Wairere Boulders reached one of their goals to get qualmarked. The step was announced in the Northern News. A further article on 24 June 2008 followed.
According to the article of the Bay of Islands Chronicle on 8 August 2008, many scientists got alerted to the previously unknown rock formations in the Wairere valley. One of the best articles was written by Jim Eagles of the NZ Herald on 6 Oct 2009. One of the most recent articles was published on 22 Dec 2011 in the ″Bay of Islands Chronicle″.
The tour company ″Great Sights″ was so impressed by the quality and uniqueness of the Wairere Boulders as an attraction that they decided in 2009 to include the basic walk of the Wairere Boulders into their Hokianga Tour.
Also magazines started to write about the Wairere Boulders. An extensive article written by Elizabeth Light was published in the magazine North and South, March 2005. Other magazines like Autocar, NZ House and Garden, Walking New Zealand followed.
In 2008 Lonely Planet included the Wairere Boulders in the New Zealand edition. In 2009 the German guidebook Michael Müller was one of the first German guidebooks to write about the Wairere Boulders. From 2010 on the attraction can be found in almost every tourism guide in many languages and also on most maps of Northland, New Zealand.
Wairere Boulders also appeared on TV. On 9 January 2007 their park was announced on TV ONE NEWS. On 26 June 2010, they were featured on TV NZs - Country Calendar and seen by around 750,000 viewers. They now are on the TV NZ DVD and the clips on the Country Calendar website have been dropped.
On 15 November 2012 Wairere Boulders was rated rank 16 in the AA 101 Must-Dos for Kiwis. Several papers commented on it.
Wairere Boulders also realised that they were unable to build up their business without a fast internet connection. They decided to contact Rural Link to help build a broadband system in the area. As it was not financially viable for Rural Link to do so, Wairere Boulders contributed a big chunk of money towards the construction of the system, now used by various businesses, 2 schools and over 40 households.
Wairere Boulders was chosen as one of the 6 businesses to take part in the Sustainable Tourism Charter Pilot Programme 2003/2004 organised by the New Zealand Ministry for the Environment and Enterprise Northland Tourism Charter Pilot Project 2003/2004. The park was chosen due to its unusual nature as a tourism attraction, to make sure the future charter will cover a wide range of tourism operations.