For some people it was more than enough. When the bulldozers came close to the last stand of giant totara in Pureora Forest, they climbed the trees and dared the bulldozers to advance. As a result of the protesters' courage and commitment, the Government eventually ordered the felling to be stopped.
But there was another achievement. Out of the experience in the totara, an idea formed in the minds of Shirley Guildford, Stephen King and others: they would work to put the forest back again. When they approached the Forest Service in 1978, it agreed to make available a small piece of unsuccessful Pine plantation at Pureora, in which he could experiment with the replanting of native species. Seed from giant totara, kahikatea and matai was collected. A nursery was set up, and the Native Forest Restoration Trust was formed.
The first meeting was on the 19 April 1980. The Trust Deed was drawn up and registered. The original trustees were: Ian Barrow, Arthur Cowan, Geoff Davidson, Andrew Dakin, Shirley Guildford, Peter Jenkins, Stephen King, Owen Lewis, and Barry Rowe. The Trust was fortunate in securing the support of Sir Edmund Hillary as its patron. The first concern was the tree seedlings. One hundred thousand of them were forming a thick green carpet. Volunteers led and exhorted by Shirley Guildford planted three thousand trees at Pureora among the pines. The Trust has since removed many of the pines in order to let the light in. Some of the seedlings are now more than four metres high, with other native trees regenerating among them. In 1988 this area was dedicated as the Shirley Guildford Grove, in memory of the work done over the years by Shirley up to her death in 1987.
The next planting site was the Cowan Wildlife Reserve. Acquired by the Wildlife Service as a result of the efforts of Arthur Cowan, it was a cutover block of 1254 hectares on the west side of North Pureora. The Trust drew up a planting plan, called for volunteers, and then began to move the trees from Auckland, first to Otorohanga where the Kiwi House provided a depot for acclimatization. Volunteers came from all over the upper part of the North Island. Forest and Bird groups, school groups, enthusiasts of all ages, found it immensely satisfying to plant trees for the future.
It was very difficult country to work in, and carrying trees through broken ground was not easy, but by 1984 twenty-five thousand trees had been planted. This clearly demonstrated one of the main principles of the Trust: people are anxious to do something practical for conservation. Planting trees is an educational experience, a means of involvement. Many thousands of the tree seedlings were sold to farmers and planted in many parts of the country. Four thousand kahikatea were presented to Waipa County to assist in their planting programme restoring old forested sites in the county. Totara were planted in the small reserve surrounding the 1700- year-old Pouakani totara, and Maori people of the Ngati-Kahungunu nearby co-operated generously with the Trust.
To encourage and undertake the restoration of degraded or destroyed New Zealand indigenous habitats and plant communities especially, but not exclusively, where: endangered species may benefit locally or nationally endangered, rare, declining or extinct floral or faunal communities may benefit or be restored restorative work may help to prevent a species or ecological community type from deteriorating to a rare, endangered or extinct state
The First Reserves
In 1985 the Trust decided to purchase a 146-hectare block of cutover land on the southern edge of Waipoua Forest in Northland. This partly-farmed block was a very conspicuous intrusion into the integrity of Waipoua. The Trust decided it should be restored. Its regenerating hill slopes would considerably shorten the time required to restore by replanting. The forest was already there in part; it needed only the restoration of the grassed portions. The public campaign was hugely successful, and with the help of the Queen Elizabeth II National Trust the $102,500 was raised in six weeks. Encouraged by this success, in 1987 the Trust moved to acquire an adjacent block of regenerating bush and shrubland. With the earlier purchase it was incorporated into the 248-hectare 'Professor W. R. McGregor Memorial Reserve', a name chosen to honour the man whose energetic campaign in the 1940s resulted in an end to logging of the Waipoua kauri forest and to the forest's dedication as a sanctuary in 1952.
Nearly all our native trees require some form of cover like manuka under which they can begin to grow. This principle is being used to restore the previously farmed area on the Professor McGregor Reserve. Over autumn and winter in 1990, volunteers cut and dried manuka from a local source then sieved the seed. As manuka must have bare, sunny ground to germinate, the soil was first prepared by heavy discing. In the early spring volunteers returned and scattered the seed by hand.
By the end of the year many tiny plants were visible, these now forming an impressive cover with the first naturally introduced native species already appearing. At the same time a public appeal resulted in the purchase of a 319-hectare reserve on the Mokau Ridge on the northern edge of Puketi Forest in Northland. Its valuable stands of taraire and other Northland forest trees provide a buffer zone to assist the long-term survival of trees and birds (especially kokako and kaka) in the Puketi Forest.
Co-operation with Other Organizations
The Trust works in co-operation with other organizations where help is needed. In 1989 the Trust helped the Department of Conservation to replant margins of the Whangamarino wetland with kahikatea. In addition, it participated in the first replanting of the newly-saved Gammons Block in the Kaimai Mamaku Forest, along with the very active Tauranga Branch of the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society. In the Waikato and King Country the Trust has assisted several District Councils with tree-planting and combined with the Queen Elizabeth II National Trust and the Regional Council to gain protection of other areas.
King Country Reserves
In 1989, the Trust also undertook to purchase the Rangitoto Station, a failed area of farmland high on the Rangitoto Range, east of Otorohanga. The Trust knew this area well. Since 1983 it had been trying to save or purchase a large block lower on the range that was threatened with clearing by the Maori Affairs Department. As a result of the Trust's submissions, the development plan was stalled and finally abandoned, and an important piece of forest was saved. On the eastern side of the Rangitoto Range, New Zealand's largest area of rewarewa forest was saved from being burnt and grassed as a result of representation by the Trust. The Rangitoto Station purchase was the biggest project for the Trust to date. At $250,000 its 427 hectares of bush, regenerating scrub and grass, presented a remarkable opportunity to complete a piece missing from the indigenous cover of the west Taupo forests. There is strong regeneration and thousands of flax, coprosma, cabbage trees, manuka and others have already been planted on the grassed areas. A modern house on the site provides an excellent base for volunteer planting groups. After a year of fund-raising the purchase was completed, with the help of many supporters, $60,000 from the sale of fencing and other assets, a generous donation from Waikato Forest Bird, and $50,000 from the New Zealand Lotteries Trust Board.
A special value of Rangitoto Station Reserve lies in its location, high up in the headwaters of three major streams which feed the Waipa River. The protection and restoration of this area will help prevent a further decline in water quality of the Waipa River and help control accelerated runoff: a key to better flood protection for Otorohanga township and lower highly productive areas. The surrounding forest areas are already recognized as having wildlife values of national importance. Endangered species present include kokako, kaka, falcon, kiwi, blue duck, bats and Hochstetter's frog. All these will benefit from the extension of their habitat. In 1995 Rangitoto Station Reserve became the centre of a major project to protect kokako in the surrounding areas. The project was initiated by a Trustee, Laurence Gordon, and is being managed by the Otorohanga Zoological Society with financial assistance from Environment Waikato and the Threatened Species Trust. To date over 90 kokako have been found in the area, including a number of fledgling birds, making it one of the most important kokako populations in the country. Early in 1990 another reserve was dedicated, this time in the Awakino area, Western King Country. A unique piece of coastal forest, with the northernmost occurrence of hard beech forest on the west coast, this 645-hectare reserve was named after the late Steuart Russell of Greenhithe, a keen conservationist and supporter of the Trust.
Recognition and Support
Also early in 1990, the visiting members of the International Dendrology Society presented the Trust with a Society award in the form of a plaque, marking the Trust's achievements in saving New Zealand native forests. The plaque is now located on the Professor McGregor Reserve. Meanwhile planting continued whenever opportunities arose. In this ongoing work of replanting the Trust has been greatly helped by the Robert C. Bruce Trust which makes funds available for approved restoration schemes. In 1992 the Trust received an environmental award from the Waikato Regional Council for its protection of Rangitoto Station. In 1995 the Trust was presented with a Department of Conservation Award in Whangarei. It was given in recognition of the work the Trust has done to preserve extensive tracts of native forest with outstanding scientific and biological values. Other recipients were Miss Cynthia Hewett and her brother Basil Hewett, for their contribution to the protection of threatened species and habitat by purchasing the Hewett Reserve under the Trust's Memorial Native Forest Scheme. Over the years the Trust has received tremendous support, both from individual members of the public and from organizations. It is particularly grateful for the support given by the Queen Elizabeth II National Trust, various branches of the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, the Whangarei Native Forest and Bird Protection Society, and the Department of Conservation.
Forests under Threat
In 1989 the threat to Northland forests from the exploding possum population was pointing to a major ecological problem. Many large rata trees in Waipoua Forest were already dead or dying; the hungry possums were moving on to other species and having the same effect as a sawmill in the area. The Trust campaigned to persuade the Department of Conservation that urgent action was needed if the forest was to be saved. Late in 1990, 17,000 hectares of forest were treated with an aerial drop of 1080 poison. The result: an 85% success rate was achieved, with no evident damage to the bird population. Many trees began to recover. Waipoua was given a reprieve, but the Trust's concern remains that better long-term controls need to be established if our forests are to be saved from predators such as possums, and from invasive weeds such as ginger.
Pureora Restoration Project
In 1987 the Trust had made submissions to Government on the future of Pureora Forest. The Government was proposing to sell six thousand hectares of plantation forests to commercial interests. The Trust proposed that after the removal of the plantation pines, the land should be replanted with native species. This would permit the restoration of indigenous trees to provide for the birdlife and the continuous canopy that are vital if the fragmented remnants of Pureora are going to survive in the future. Pureora contains more of our endangered forest birds than any other forest in the North Island. In October 1990 the then Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Mr Mike Moore, announced at a special ceremony in Hamilton that Pureora would be restored to native forest. The income from the sale of the exotics would finance this massive restoration project, the world's largest according to the Trust's honorary trustee, Professor David Bellamy. The Native Forests Restoration Trust was to organize this exciting programme in co-operation with the Government. In December 1991 the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Mr Jim Bolger, the Member of Parliament for the area, inspected Pureora. He announced his support for the project and consultations are now under way with the objective of bringing the project to fruition.
Additional Northland Reserves
Back at Waipoua, the Trust decided to purchase a 142-hectare link between the semi-coastal forest of the Katui Scenic Reserve and the south-western corner of Waipoua. Named after Elvie McGregor, who along with her late husband was also involved in the campaign to save Waipoua Forest, this new addition was a unique opportunity to expand the forest boundaries in an ecologically significant way. Semi-coastal forest provides a good year-round food source for the native pigeon, now in reduced numbers in the Waipoua area. To assist the regeneration of this type of forest hundreds of puriri have already been planted, along with karaka, coprosma, cabbage trees and flax. The reserve also provides a safe stepping-stone for kiwi between Katui Scenic Reserve and Waipoua Forest.
Once again the Trust called on its supporters to help pay for the reserve. Generous support also came from Margie Maddren and the Whangarei Native Forest and Bird Protection Society, and the ASB Charitable Trust donated $40,000. Late in 1991 the Trust announced its sixth reserve. Under the Trust's Memorial Forest Scheme, Miss C. Hewett and Mr B. Hewett of Cambridge, decided to buy a block of 242 hectares at Titoki near Whangarei. The Reserve is named after William Upton Hewett who was killed during the Second World War. The Reserve contains some good regenerating northland forest, and is especially notable for its population of kiwi and fernbirds and many unique plants, some very rare locally.
Early in 1995 the Trust undertook to acquire a 240-hectare block near the Maungataniwha Forest in Honeymoon Valley, Northland. The appeal was again successful and was again supported by a generous grant of $47,700 from the ASB Charitable Trust. Most of this block is covered in good taraire/tawa forest, but the rest - in manuka and native shrubs - was destined for rollercrushing and pine plantation. This block has an unusually high bird population, including the North Island brown kiwi and the kukupa, the native pigeon. It will make a fine restoration reserve.
Reaching into the Wairarapa
In 1993 the Trust took up the opportunity to extend its work to the lower part of the North Island. The Queen Elizabeth II National Trust had for several years been trying unsuccessfully to protect a block of land on the Rimutaka Ranges which would provide a secure lowland forest link between the Tararua and Rimutaka Forest Parks. It contains a significant portion of lowland black and hard beech forests, the most rare of all lowland forests in the Tararua Ecological District. The Restoration Trust decided to take up the challenge and raised the $100,000 needed for the 825- hectare reserve, now called the Rimutaka Restoration Reserve. Tremendous support was received from all over the country, but particularly from individuals and organisations in the lower North Island, and many branches of the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society. The New Zealand Lotteries Trust Board contributed $50,000 towards this purchase.
Waitomo Caves Protection
For a number of years the Trust has been involved in planting projects under the guidance of Arthur Cowan on privately-owned land to protect the world-famous Waitomo Caves from siltation. One area, through which the Waitomo Walkway passes, has been named the Garnet Dimond Bush. Since 1990, the Trust has planted an average of 500 native trees and shrubs a year at Waitomo to protect the Caves. The total value of these plantings (including growing, transport, planting, releasing, fertiliser, and the cutting of flax) is $15,000. This was at no cost to the landowners. The Te Kuiti Tramping club has given invaluable assistance in the Waitomo area by growing plants and helping with planting. Apart from encouraging farmers beside the Waitomo River to set aside land and allow planting, the Trust has also given $30,000 to assist the purchase of some 300 hectares of forest in the catchment with high wildlife value, caves and waterfalls, and has also donated $2,000 to the initial establishment fund of the Waitomo Catchment Committee.
The Trust is a small group of dedicated people. They have been assisted by a growing list of supporters who receive regular newsletters, respond to opportunities for planting programmes, assist with funding for appeals and provide invaluable feedback. Each of the Trust's reserves, after it has been covenanted for permanent protection through the Queen Elizabeth II National Trust, is supervised by an Honorary Ranger. Local people are frequently keen to be involved in the management of a local reserve. The Trust is developing a series of local support groups to encourage that involvement. A Management Plan is drawn up for each reserve and the Trust has established native plant and animal species lists. The Trust is also actively involved in protecting our natural heritage in many other ways, including the preparation of submissions at local, regional and national levels, and by objecting to resource consents which would affect native forest.
Trustees can look back over 20 years of effort with some satisfaction. There is today a general acceptance of the need to preserve all our remaining indigenous forest. We have squandered most of it in the past to make farmland and pasture, to make towns and roads, to plant quick-growing plantation forests for timber and paper pulp. The results of these activities are all too obvious: flooding; siltation of rivers and estuaries; loss of some of our best fishing waters; a disastrous loss of wildlife, especially birds, with over 400 species of bird and plant life on the endangered list; and an incredible failure to appreciate what many people travel round the world to see - real, unspoiled New Zealand native forest. Do we stop caring because the public expects all our forests to be protected from now on?
The Restoration Trust believes that we must not only halt all logging, but we must also start to put back native forests that should never have been removed. Instead of accepting as enough the present one-fifth of the original forest cover New Zealand once had, we should begin planning to achieve one-quarter, or even more. We would then be able to ensure that representative types of forest are secured, large enough to ensure their viability in the future; that all our remaining native birds and animals have an assured future; that the full diversity of our native forests is preserved for all time. Such an objective is not easily achieved. It takes a long time to make a forest. But it is a worthwhile objective and it should keep the Native Forests Restoration Trust busy for a long time to come.