Before humans settled the Banks Peninsula around 900 years ago, the peninsula was almost entirely forested. During centuries of Maori occupation about a third of the forest was removed, mostly by fire.
Europeans arrived, settled on the peninsula and founded the city of Christchurch just to the north. Within decades less than 1% of old-growth native forests remained. The great trees had either been cut down for wood or burned to make way for pastures to graze sheep and cattle. Hares and rabbits devastated what little remained of the native plants that once helped provide life-supporting ecosystem services, including their all-important ability to regulate the climate and store massive quantities of carbon. Birds, reptiles, and invertebrates, each playing a role in the once thriving ecosystems, were easy pickings for the predators that had been introduced: rats, stoats, possums, hedgehogs, and the cats and goats and pigs that went feral.