The Forest Lifeforce Restoration (FLR) Trust and the Department of Conservation (DOC) are joining forces in a major new Hawke’s Bay conservation project that aims to convert a 4,000 hectare pine plantation back to regenerating native forest.
The three-year, $240,000 conversion of the Maungataniwha Pine Forest is the largest project of its kind in New Zealand. It is the Trust’s biggest and most expensive single project and has been enabled by a $105,000 grant from the public conservation funding organisation, the Biodiversity Conditions Fund.
The FLR Trust is taking control of parts of the forest that are harvested each year with the ultimate aim of re-vegetating the entire 4,000 hectare area with indigenous plants.
There is sufficient native species seed in the soil to enable natural regeneration but the major challenge, and cost, is the elimination of regenerating pine seedlings which crowd out the slower growing native forest species.
DOC is interested in the land stewardship methods and spray mix used by the FLR Trust to encourage the growth of native plants while inhibiting these ‘wilding’ pines. The $105,000 Biodiversity Conditions Fund grant will be underpin the project over the next three years and will be matched by $135,000 from the Trust.
“Conservation in New Zealand can no longer be purely the preserve of government agencies,” said Trust Chairman Simon Hall. “The job’s too big, the battle’s too fierce. Landowners and the private sector all have a role to play.
“We’re delighted with, and very grateful for, the support of DOC and the Biodiversity Conditions Fund. It’s vital to helping us get the job done.”
DOC’s Acting Wellington Hawkes Bay Conservator, Ben Reddiex, said the scope of the FLR Trust’s native regeneration project was exciting.
“It will deliver a landscape-scale environmental gain and shows what can be achieved when private and public conservation groups pool resources and expertise.”
The Biodiversity Conditions Fund and the Trust will also together spend a further $80,000 in restoring a viable population of one of this country’s most endangered shrubs, the Kakabeak, in the Maungataniwha Native Forest.
Exotic fauna have impacted the Kakabeak severely. Until recently there were only 109 specimens known to be growing in the wild across the whole of New Zealand. Four of these are located on the Waiau Bluffs in the Te Urewera National Park, adjacent to the Maungataniwha Native Forest.
The Trust is propagating Kakabeak using seeds from these and other wild-growing plants.
In addition to these projects the Trust runs a pest control and eradication initiative and assists with the re-introduction of forest birds to previously abandoned habitats. It’s also fast carving out a name for itself as one of the most prolific and successful kiwi conservation initiatives in the country.