Puketi Forest (15,000 hectares), and the adjacent Omahuta Forest, together make up one of the largest remaining tracts of native forest in Northland. Their subtropical kauri forests, a nationally rare forest type, are largely intact and have many different habitats and plant species, including several that are rare or endangered. The forests are large enough to sustain populations of the larger native birds, such as Northland brown kiwi, kaka, kokako and kukupa (the New Zealand pigeon).
The forest once supported numerous and diverse birdlife, but competition and predation by introduced pests reduced these. Kokako, rifleman, kaka and red- and yellow-crowned parakeets no longer live there, while populations of remaining native birds, such as brown kiwi, kukupa and pied tit, are much reduced and, without intervention, also face local extinction.
The Puketi Forest Trust aims to break the silence and re-awaken the forest with its project called Oho Mai Puketi (Awaken Puketi). The Trust is a volunteer-based community organisation and charitable trust, which formed in 2003 and is supported by iwi and DOC.
Among its goals are to:
- Restore Puketi Forest to a complete, healthy, living forest
- Become a resource for conservation education and science
- Encourage and help neighbouring landowners to manage native forest on their land
Key components of the restoration project are long-term pest control to reduce animal predators and reinreintroduction of locally extinct native New Zealand wildlife.
The Trust has approximately 400 supporting members in Northland, throughout New Zealand and oveseas. The forest is popular with both locals and tourists, and visitors already notice increased birdlife and healthier vegetation within the pest control area.
Size of area under protection
Within Puketi Forest, 5500 hectares is under control for mustelids (stoats, weasels and ferrets) and feral cats and a core of 650 hectares within this is intensively trapped for rats and possums. Because of the large area to cover and rugged terrain, most pest control is carried out by four contractors employed by the Trust. Volunteers look after the more accessible trap lines.
The Trust’s ultimate aim is to have its forest restoration project self-funding in perpetuity. Pest control must be maintained for the foreseeable future and a capital fund has been established to eventually provide investment income to fund that pest control. This fund is building from donations and bequests.
Effective pest control has been established and results have been seen in increased numbers of all resident native birds in annual 5-minute bird counts. Kiwi call counts and numbers heard have been increasing since 2008. Palatable plants such as raukawa (Raukaua edgerleyi), koru (Colensoa physaloides) and the flowers of kiekie (Freycinetia baueriana) previously rare are now encountered more frequently.
Toutouwai (North Island robin) were introduced in 2009 and 2010 and are breeding successfully. Plans are well advanced for the return of kokako.
Puketi Forest Trust’s main money raising venture invites people to become sponsors – helping to pay for track building, traps and pest control.
For $50 a year, an individual hectare can be “bought”, bringing in enough money to cover the cost of controlling pests over one hectare. In all, 2000 hectares are up for sponsorship; when all are sold, the Trust will achieve its goal to be self-funding in perpetuity.
Sponsors can also buy rat traps at $10 each, stoat traps at $20 each, or cat traps at $25 each. Or sponsors can fund track building, at $1000 a kilometre. All money from the sponsorship programme goes to the forest, with none spent on administration.
Puketi Forest Trust receives significant funding from the following charitable trusts and foundations:
- Kiwis for Kiwi
- ASB Charitable Trust
- Forest and Bird (Far North, Northern, Waikato)
- NZ Lottery Grants Board (Environment and Heritage)
- Lion Foundation
- Pub Charity
- Oxford Sports Trust Incorporated
- Ron and Edna Greenwood Environmental Trust
- Sir John Logan Campbell Residuary Estate
The Trust also receives essential support from about 30 volunteers, who together put in more than 4000 hours each year.
The One Most Important Thing
Rather than spend precious funding on transmitters and intensive monitoring, the Trust decided to invest in trapping using proven techniques, and rely on volunteers to monitor kiwi calls and do five-minute bird counts. If money was spent on transmitters, the Trust could only afford to trap one third of the area it presently covers. Listening, while not precise, still indicates trends in bird numbers, and these trends are healthy – especially because the Trust can afford to trap a larger area.
The Trust is always looking for volunteers to help with kiwi listening, monitoring robins and other wildlife, pest monitoring, checking traps and many other jobs that cal for attention.
If you would like to help with the restoration project, Oho Mai Puketi, or would like further information, contact the Trust at:
Phone: 09 405 0074
Postal address: P O Box 257, Kaeo, 0448