Government commitment first step in saving Northland native forests from collapse

Forest & Bird is welcoming today’s announcement from Minister Maggie Barry to increase predator control in Northland, and believe it is a good start towards saving the region’s forests from collapse.

Photo description

Photo description

Red-fronted kākāriki (Photo by Janice McKenna)

Minister of Conservation Maggie Barry announced today that the Department of Conservation is committing to work with local hapū to design a multi-species pest control programme for Russell State Forest to be carried out over 20 years, with an extra $380,000 spent on predator control in Northland this financial year.

Forest & Bird’s Northland Conservation Advocate Dean Baigent-Mercer is hopeful that increased and ongoing pest control will allow birds that have recently became extinct in the area, like kākā and kākāriki, to return from nearby offshore islands where they survive in the absence of introduced predators.

“At the moment, many of Northland’s forests are silent. Native birds have been under relentless attack from introduced pests for decades, and the tops of many ancient forest trees are dead or dying because of possum browsing.”

“Controlling introduced predators means the forest can rebound naturally and native birds like tūī, kūkupa (kererū) and kīwī will be able to nest in peace and build in numbers. This is a small but significant start towards reversing forest collapse” says Baigent-Mercer.

“It also offers the possibility of bringing back birds that became extinct in Russell State Forest some time ago like kārearea, kōkako and tītipounamu (rifleman)”.

Northland’s forests can be returned to a healthy state within our lifetimes, but only if people work together to build on this small but significant start.

“We know it takes native forests 20 years alone to recover from collapse, but also how successful native birds are able to breed with ongoing quality pest control operations. I hope one day we can again have kākā, kakariki and bellbirds in people’s backyards right across the north”, says Baigent-Mercer.

Forest & Bird released drone footage in late 2015 to highlight the issue of Northland’s collapsing forests. The effects of possum browsing are evident in the footage - it shows dying ancient rata, pohutukawa, totara, and puriri, plus thinning canopies of taraire, kohekohe and rewarewa.

Currently over 46,000 hectares of native forest under DOC’s care in Northland are collapsing. Even the native forests which have the highest priority ranking under the Department’s new Natural Heritage Management System, have not been given sufficient resourcing for multi-species pest control.

“The constant restructuring and underfunding of DOC has been to the detriment of these forests. In the most tribally complex area of the country and home to the last great forests of the north, we need continual commitment to bring back other forests from collapse and funding increases for DOC to do it,” says Baigent-Mercer.

“The introduced animals do not care who is responsible for the land or people’s politics. “Every night and day they eat the forests and wildlife to death. That is why working together and a properly funded Department of Conservation is essential.”

Collapsing forests currently in DOC's care:

Northland native forests managed by the Department of Conservation between Kaitaia and Kaiwaka that are currently collapsing and have no or nearly no pest control for at least 20 years conservatively total 46,876 hectares and include:

  • Herekino Forest (4406 ha)
  • Te Karoa/Otangaroa (928 ha)
  • Raetea/Maungataniwha/Mangamuka Gorge (11722 ha)
  • Russell State Forest (7131 ha)
  • Waikino Forest (979 ha)
  • Marlborough Forest (4796 ha)
  • Tangihua Forest (3241 ha)
  • Mangakahia Forest/Nga Kiekie Whawhanui a Uenuku Scenic Reserve (1976 ha)
  • Houto Forest (938 ha)
  • Mareretu Forest (1352 ha)
  • Kaihu Forest and Scenic Reserve (2548 ha)
  • Opua State Forest (3844 ha) [Bay Bush Action does multi-species trapping in an additional 450 ha]
  • Mimiwhangata/Kaiikanui (2015 ha) - some mustelid control to protect pateke but overall collapse occurring
  • Mangonui Forest/North Whangaroa (1000 ha)