Pine clearance boosts record-setting native bush recovery

Contractors have hand-cleared more than 1.5 million wilding pines from 750 hectares of regenerating native bush in inland Hawke’s Bay. The work took place between August 2014 and July this year as part of New Zealand’s largest single indigenous re-forestation initiative.

Hawke’s Bay-based Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust (FLRT) is taking control of parts of the Maungataniwha Pine Forest,  south of Te Urewera National Park, that are harvested each year with the ultimate aim of re-vegetating the entire 4,000 hectare area with indigenous plants.

The work was done by Rotorua-based Hose Developments and follows an aerial spraying programme several years ago. FLRT forest manager Pete Shaw says the contractors aim to eliminate all remaining saplings in every hectare but that about 30 percent will regenerate.

“We’ll have to do another pass in about two years’ time,” Shaw said.

The Trust, which was established in 2006 to provide direction and funding for the restoration of threatened species of native fauna and flora in forests within the Central North Island, uses a mix of aerial spraying and manual clearance methods.

The $240,000 project is funded by the FLRT and by a $105,000 grant from the public conservation funding organisation, the Biodiversity Conditions Fund. The Department of Conservation is using the project as a test case to learn more about the land stewardship methods involved in the large-scale regeneration of native forest and the control of wilding pines.

It takes two years to clear logged land of wilding pines and a further eight years to get it to the point where it can be described as fully regenerated. During this time the land is nurtured, treated and monitored by the FLRT to ensure that the species they expect to appear do so.

There is sufficient seed from native species seed in the soil to enable natural regeneration but the major challenge, and cost, is the elimination of regenerating pine seedlings which crowd out the slower growing native forest species.

The grasses are the first to take hold; native species like hookgrass and toetoe. Then shrubs or small trees like mahoe and wineberry. These are followed by mountain cabbage-tree, kanuka and native fuschia. Once these species have re-colonised the land the stage is set for larger stuff such as red and silver beech.

Native birds such as kereru and silvereyes play a vital role in the regeneration.

In addition to its native forest regeneration work the FLRT runs a restoration project aimed at boosting the wild-grown population of the flamboyant and extremely rare shrub called the Kakabeak, seeks to provide a secure breeding habitat for the Blue Duck (whio), undertakes various pest control and eradication initiatives and assists with the re-introduction of forest birds to previously abandoned habitats. It’s also fast carving out a name for itself as one of the most prolific and successful kiwi conservation initiatives in the country.

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About the Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust

The Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust was established in 2006 to provide direction and funding for the restoration of threatened species of fauna and flora, and to restore the ngahere mauri (forest lifeforce) in native forests within the Central North Island.

It runs eight main regeneration and restoration projects, involving native New Zealand flora and fauna, on three properties in the central North Island. It also owns a property in the South Island’s Fiordland National Park.

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