Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Hawke’s Bay commits to forest protection

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has committed to protecting and enhancing critically endangered indigenous forest, with 287 hectares of land earmarked for protection this year.

Council Team Leader Biosecurity Biodiversity, Mark Mitchell says $1.3 million will be dedicated to deer fencing and pest control of seven native forest sites across the region, thanks to the Regional Council, QEII and Jobs for Nature funding.

The seven sites are Birch Hill, Motumokai Bush, Puahanui Bush, Gilles Bush, Pakuratahi Bush, Lochinvar remnant, and Whittle Bush. Many of these are home to Hawke’s Bay’s most acutely threatened forest species including Tōtara, black beech and Northern rātā.

“We’ve got seven sites of nearly 290 hectares that will be protected, four of which are challenging, large sites and it wouldn’t have been possible to fence them without the additional funding from Jobs for Nature or collaboration with the Regional Council’s Erosion Control Scheme and Open Spaces,” said Mr Mitchell.

He said fencing these sites will help to keep out feral deer, as animal numbers have increased across the region.

“They have a big impact on the understorey (the forest layer above the ground and below tall trees) as as their eating patterns change the composition of the forest. This affects other species in the forest such as birds who rely on the understorey for food and habitat. Combining the fencing with pest control will help our native birdlife.”

These images show Motumokai Bush from before the area was fenced (left) to the regeneration seven years after it was fenced (right).

“We’ve faced challenges with costs of material like deer netting and posts, difficulties in getting contractors and material, and the nature of the sites requiring specialist equipment. Despite these challenges, five out of the seven projects are underway and on track to be completed by this year, with the other two set to begin in March.”

Environment and Integrated Catchments Committee Chair and Regional Councillor, Hinewai Ormsby said she believes indigenous biodiversity in New Zealand is “in crisis”.

“Too much of our biodiversity is just hanging on. Hawke’s Bay has lost 77% of the original indigenous forest that once covered the region. This Ecosystems Prioritisation programme will help secure what remnants of biodiversity we have left,” says Councillor Ormsby,” she said.

“It is a step forward in addressing biodiversity decline, focusing on sustaining, protecting, and improving a full representation of native species and habitats.

“A big thank you to the biodiversity and biosecurity team for their hard mahi on the ground in protecting our taonga species.”

Council says the seven sites being protected are unique for a range of reasons:

  • Birch Hill in Pōrangahau will be one of the largest protected black beech remnants on private land in Hawke’s Bay;
  • Motumokai Bush in is a titoki podocarp remnant with 65 native plants including the Northern rātā;
  • Puahanui Bush in Tukituki is considered the largest, most intact, and diverse lowland forest left in Hawke’s Bay;
  • Gillies Bush is a 32ha old growth Tawa, titoki, podocarp forest and one of the last forest remnants on the seaward face of the Maraetōtora plateau;
  • Pakuratahi Bush in the Waikari catchment is a 80ha remnant is of Tōtara tītoki forest which is acutely threatened in Hawke’s Bay;
  • Lochinvar remnant in Mohaka catchment is two small remnants that contain the nationally vulnerable pittosporum turnerii;
  • Whittle Bush is an 84ha kahikatea, rimu forest in the Tūtaekurī catchment that was purchased by council’s Open Spaces team in 2020. The type of forest (MF11-4) is classified as chronically threatened.

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