Rotokare is a fenced pest-free forest reserve 12-kilometres east of Eltham, in south Taranaki. With a lake and wetlands, the scenic reserve has long been a popular recreation spot, and now also has a strong conservation focus.
The Rotokare Scenic Reserve Trust is a community-led project established to protect and restore the reserve. The Trust formed in 2004, in response to concerns about the damage pests were causing to the Reserve’s forests.
The Trust’s mission statement is to:
Achieve the highest level of restoration, protection and enhancement of the indigenous ecosystem at Rotokare Scenic Reserve.
Actively involve the community and provide the best opportunities for education, recreation and inspiration within the bounds of environmental protection.
The Trust originally set out to raise $30,000 for a pest-trapping project, which was successfully achieved. Project manager, Kara Prankerd, says the potential to restore Rotokare’s native biodiversity became clear with the:
- construction of an 8.2-kilometre $2 million pest-proof fence in 2008
- total eradication of 12 pest species from within the fence during 2009-2011
- establisment of a quality environmental education programme
- revegetation of 12.5-hectares of land that was gifted to the project by neighbouring landowners
- establishment of on-site facilities, including a site manager’s residence, workshop and education centre.
Community and volunteers are an integral component of Rotokare, says Trust Chairman, Mike Weren. “Volunteer effort has been staggering, and the project really wouldn’t be possible without it.”
Kara says planning for the introduction of species is well under way – “Bringing back those that have become locally extinct in this area, or that are in need of a safe haven”. Western brown kiwi will be an important part of the restoration programme, she says.
Size of area under protection
Rotokare Scenic Reserve is a 230-hectare forested hill-country catchment, which includes extensive wetlands and 17.8-hectare natural lake. Mature forest dominated by tawa, rewarewa and mahoe provides habitat for tui, bellbird, kereru, grey warbler, North Island robin and a variety of other bird species. The lake edge habitat of raupo, flax and pukatea/kahikatea swamp forest provides habitat for fernbirds and spotless crake, while eels and banded kokopu live in the streams and lake.
Kara says raising funding and building the fence have been the biggest challenges the Trust has faced so far.
The predator-proof fence is the most sustainable method to control pests in the long term. As for all community groups, volunteer burnout is a risk, and the Trust did not want to rely on toxins in the long term. A completely pest free area will allow vegetation to recover and existing animals to breed. It will also provide a safe habitat for introducing endangered species, including western brown kiwi, saddleback and kokako.
A future challenge will be working out how to keep the project fully funded for the long term, Kara says.
A big success has been keeping the community involved and interested, and running a great volunteer programme.
The one most important thing
Kara says an important key is to remember that people are as important to conservation as conservation is to people.
If you would like to learn more about the Rotokare Scenic Reserve Trust and its work, or volunteer your efforts, you can contact Kara Prankerd, project manager, at:
Phone: 0272 240 165
Postal address: PO Box 33, Eltham, Taranaki