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The Mahakirau Forest Estate protection area, our organization, history and what we hope to accomplish:

The Mahakirau Forest Estate comprises almost 600 hectares of native forest divided into 24 private properties with introduced animal and plant controls. 95% is covenanted with the QEII National Trust or with Thames Coromandel District Council. Mahakirau Forest Estate is bounded on three sides by DOC managed land – with the Manaia Kauri Sanctuary to the south and the Coromandel State Forest to the east and west. Most of the estate is recognized in the Protected Natural Area Programme (PNAP) and forms a Recommended Area for Protection (RAP) that is contiguous with areas administered by DOC.

The Mahakirau Forest Estate Society Incorporated (MFESI) has been established since 2001 to act as a united legal entity, and the society has been undertaking pest control (to protect and restore biodiversity) on behalf of all Mahakirau Forest Estate lot owners for almost 15 years. Our community continues to be a highly motivated and active group driven by the desire to protect and enhance the Coromandel and New Zealand’s natural environment, and in particular its threatened species.

The Mahakirau Forest Estate has been ranked as holding “outstanding wildlife value”, including the extremely rare Coromandel striped gecko, Hochstetter’s and Archey’s frogs, North Island kaka and North Island brown kiwi. Helms butterflies, painted cave weta, longfin eel and kokopu spp. have also all been found in the estate. There are strong resident populations of kereru, tui, bellbird, fantail, tomtit, silver eye, grey warbler, kingfisher, morepork and shining cuckoo. The diverse forest flora consists of over 50 tree species including mature Northern Rata, Miro, Rimu, Halls Totara, Kahikatea, Kaikawaka, Tanekaha, Taraire, Pukatea, Kohekohe, Kanuka and Manuka, as well as prolific and diverse epiphytic, under storey and stream boundary flora (including at risk King Fern and Kirk’s daisy).

Considerable progress has been achieved, both in terms of contributing to and benefitting from the wider conservation community (professional and amateur), and in terms of managing our diverse and important forest. Initiatives to date include: 1) a continuous stoat trapping programme since 2001 (which we’ve been told makes it the longest running stoat programme on the Peninsula), 2) continued possum and rat baiting programmes on an annual basis since 2007 and 2008 respectively, and 3) the ongoing monitoring of pest control results. We have been monitoring kiwi on the Estate since 2011 and hope to be able to take further steps to increase the residual population.

This could be considered prime kiwi land… a relatively safe haven of mature forest protected from the excesses of mammalian predation through a long running pest control programme. Centrally located on the Coromandel range, we see our position on the peninsula as a stronghold, a bridge between coasts, and from tip to toe. Reaching out, our fingertips touch with many of the Coromandel Kiwi Collective’s conservation groups (foremost DOC, Manaia iwi, MEG, Project Kiwi, Thames Coast & Whenuakite). Our aim is to lock in this grip, to connect, share and enhance, strengthening a safe passage for all vulnerable species, including New Zealand’s national bird, the unique kiwi. Together we can make all the difference.

Our biggest success:

Our biggest success to date has to be the establishment of an active community group who share a common vision and commitment to protect, restore and enhance the estate’s unique biodiversity for future generations. A noticeable increase in flora and fauna is the result of sustained and consistent pest control, an ability to continually strive to improve the efficacy and efficiency of our programmes, an openness to trial new techniques and approaches, an eagerness to build collaboration and consensus from diverse perspectives and skill sets, and generally harnessing the passion needed to make a difference. The Incorporated Society gave us the structure to achieve a community based success, as only invested as a team is our vision realistically achievable. It is of great credit to our landowners that the objectives of the Society and the true value of Mahakirau Forest Estate is supported and protected.

Our biggest ‘kiwi success’ has been the support of ‘Kiwi’s for Kiwi’ in our recent monitoring programme, which has proven that kiwi are living a sustained life amongst us.

And then, recently, ‘Runner’; a spontaneous & precious addition to Mahakirau Forest life. A young Castle Rock kiwi, running for its life with a dog hot its heels, managed to cross paths with a local hunter, who threw himself between dog and kiwi, and miraculously managed to grab the brave bird, lifting it to safety. After a stressful night in a box and then an all clear from the local vet, it was decided to release the bird as fast as possible and Mahakirau came to mind! Our reputation, built on a solid predator control, paid off. Sex is (at date of publication) undetermined, but we pray it is a sexy young female. Either way, we hope that Runner lives a long and productive life under our protective wing. What a beautiful gift… One simple gesture, reminding us that all the hard work is worthwhile.

Our biggest ‘kiwi’ challenge at present:

Mahakirau’s biggest ‘kiwi’ challenge is the current reality that we only have a remnant (a few, male individuals) and therefore non sustainable kiwi population. We are currently formulating a kiwi conservation programme co-ordinated with other successful Coromandel kiwi groups, as we hope to be able to better contribute to the kiwi recovery plan. One of the biggest threats to kiwi are dogs, and being a pet-free estate and a highly secured, gated site does give us an advantage. We hope to adopt some female kiwi for our sturdy resident gentlemen, leading to the reintroduction of breeding pairs for this historical range. With an adequate pest control buffer in place, and a constant strive for refinement and intensification, the nurturing of new generations of kiwi is already in the making. May Mahakirau play an integral part in the expansion of the Coromandel kiwi population, and kiwi connected by safe habitat corridors.

Contact:

If you would like to donate, volunteer, or would like more information about Mahakirau Forest Estate, please get in touch with:
Sara Smerdon: sara@smerdon.info or
Jude Hooson: judehooson@mandala.co.nz

Website: http://www.mahakirau.co.nz/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Mahakirau
Nature blog: http://mahakirau.blogspot.co.nz/

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