Coal Pit Wines – Establishing a Native Reforestation Program


Coal Pit is a family-owned 7 hectare vineyard in Gibbston, Central Otago, New Zealand. The vineyard is situated in the foothills of The Remarkables mountain range, planted on North facing slopes at 500m elevation making it one of the highest vineyards in New Zealand.  The vineyard was planted in 1994 on it’s own roots and is composed of mainly Pinot Noir with a small portion of Sauvignon Blanc. Central Otago has extreme diurnal shifts, with very hot days and very cool nights throughout the growing season. These cooler nights promote wines with vibrant acidity and elegant refined tannin structure. We have a small, state-of-the-art winery on site that allows for the fruit to be processed within minutes of being picked. Central Otago was historically a mining region and Coal Pit’s name pays homage to the old coal mine that used to exist just above the vineyard.

Coal Pit is committed to producing world-class wines from our vineyard and winery and continues to evolve in our goal of generational sustainability.

Coal Pit Vineyard is now fully organic, certified under BioGro – New Zealand’s leading organic certification agency.


  • At Coal Pit we have implemented lighter glass bottles, almost entirely NZ-made dry goods, and sustainable packaging, but by far the most impactful response to climate change we have instituted is our native reforestation program. The native reforestation program provides a big impact for a small business and allows us to have a long-term commitment to sustainability.
  • Our native restoration program is taking place in a 3 ha paddock that runs parallel to the vineyard that has historically been overrun by invasive species mainly gorse and broom. Through the help of a local ecologist we have developed a 20 year planting program where we plant a half hectare of natives trees in a high-density area each year. By doing small segments we can continually adapt to ensure the right species are successfully established.
  • New Zealand is a very unique place on earth because it evolved in isolation for 80 million years therefore our bird and wildlife have a strong connection to this native habitat. Native plants do not establish as quickly or sequester as much carbon initially like non-native such as pines, but they do provide a habitat for our native ecosystem which is really important which is important for the sustainability of this land on a holistic scale.
  • We chose to not sprayed the invasive species with herbicide prior to planting, as they provide great shelter for the natives during establishment from the harsh elements. We plant at a high density around them and now they’re starting to outcompete the invasive.
  • We have three main planting zones based on the aspect and proximity to the creek running through this gully.
    • The top terrace is a beech forest made up of mainly mountain beech trees and toetra
    • The middle section is a mix of trees and shrubland consisting of cabbage trees, oleria, korokia, broad leaf, flax, kowhai and many others
    • Along the wetland area we have planted toetoe and tussock to restore and protect the historic creek.


SDG 13: Climate Action

SDG15: Life on Land

SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals



In Central Otago the mean temperature has increased 1.5 degrees over the past 90 years, which means phenological events, especially version and harvest are becoming earlier and earlier. So far we have been able to adapt viticulture practices to manage this change, but we know the problem will only continue to grow. Outside of Central Otago, other regions experienced severe weather events such as typhoons and flash flooding the destroyed entire vineyards and left communities reeling.  We know climate change is not going away and we must take action to mitigate our emissions.

We want to create and enact a native plant restoration project which aims to protect natural waterways around the vineyards and enhance biodiversity to promote a stronger more resilient ecosystem that can adopt to change


This Native Reforestation Project was meant to be a long-term solution in response to the lack of biodiversity around the area. This project will also protect the natural waterway which runs through our vineyards as well as all our neighbor’s vineyards. Additionally, the native plants will assist with carbon sequestration.

We worked with an ecologist who developed the restoration plan. We utilized The Whakatipu Restoration Trust which was started by Neil and Barbara Simpson, a husband-and-wife team who have been doing restoration work for over 40 years in this region.

The plan is to eventually fill the entire paddock.

New Zealand land can be a relatively fragile environment and we chose plants that suit our soil profile with the help of a professional.

Our planting days are all volunteer based and we’ve been amazed at the enthusiasm and participation from our community and it’s great to see our friends inspired to start their own projects too and long term this native forest help protect and preserve our little spot in the world that we care so much about


Recent vintages like 2017, the driest year ever in the Douro region  since there are records, increased the discussion around vines water needs with many growers advocating for the authorization of irrigation as the solution for the Future. However, if there’s water shortage, where’s the water to irrigate? Water is a limited and potentially increasingly scarce resource and Governments around the World are already implementing policies to restrain its use, namely for agricultural purposes. Vineyards in Australia and California for example are not only struggling but already taking measures, imposing limits to water use.

The first “New Old Vineyards”, planted in 2014, faced 2017’s highly severe drought and heat, still at a very tender age (3years) with praise and distinction! Not only all the young vines survived without any irrigation, but also still allowed its first production ever, with a very consistent and steady ripening and a final quality that revealed a balance difficult to achieve in such conditions.

In the following years the vineyard’s development was fantastic and productions have been naturally increasing in quantity but even more in quality, with the latest 2019 vintage showing already a quality level and a character that is surprising for its age and that shows its great potential for the Future.


One of the goals of this project is to have the native plants outcompete the invasive species and that is already happening.

Our friends and community are inspired to start their own projects, too.

In the long term, we aim for this forest to protect and preserve this little spot in the world which we care so much about.



Even a small amount of native plant life will make a difference.

We feel like we have contributed in some way and in turn, that is better than nothing at all.

Getting started is the most important thing – every action counts.

You do not have to be a climate expert to care about your local environment or talk about climate change. Having open minded conversations is how you change the hearsts and minds of people. Planting is a great way to have these type of conversations and promote people to act.



  • Preservation and study of the individual behaviour of Douro’s most rare indigenous grapes to better understand it’s contributions and to be able to place it correctly;
  • Use of new tools like farming drones in Douro’s New Old vineyards (but also in the proper Old ones) not only to help solving human resources shortage but also towards a more precise and sustainable viticulture.


Continue to plant our land and promote community involvement. In terms of next steps, we are continually striving to be more sustainable in every aspect of the business. Staying up to date with the newest tehcnology. In terms of farming we are moving in a more regenerative direction.



High impact (over a longer period of time) and relatively low effort (with the help of community members and local actors)



The major challenges were getting started and creating a plan. It is crucial to have a plan in writing so it can be seen through until the end, even if the current team moves on.

An important part of logistics is to fence off the area. Rabbits are a big problem in NZ and as we develop new sections, we must fence it off to ensure the plants won’t get eaten.



The Whakatipu Restoration Trust



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