Puketi Forest, including Omahuta Forest, forms one of the most outstanding and largest tracts of native forest in Northland. A total of 21,000 ha are managed by the Department of Conservation. There is old growth kauri forest containing the fourth largest kauri, a large river system and a huge diversity of forest species and habitat types. A network of tracks throughout the forest offers visitors a full range of opportunities from wilderness tramping to high quality wheelchair accessible interpretation walks. The area contains good populations of kiwi, kukupa, native bats and a small remnant population of kokako.
There is a strong network of landowners nearby managing biodiversity on their own properties. The Puketi Forest Trust, which is an incorporated society and registered charity, was formed in 2003. Their goal is to restore the forest life to its condition 30 years ago by controlling predators including rats, cats and stoats intensively whilst the Department of Conservation has agreed to undertake possum control. In the last four years the Trust has spent $600,000 managing predators over 5,000 ha with an intensively managed area of 700 ha. The project is made possible by various grants and charities as well as from voluntary labour.
Puketi Forest Trust's achievements to date include:
· 90km of tracks for trap lines established with 330 Fen traps, 458 DOC 200's, 195 SA cat traps, Conibear traps, 2,500 Victor rat traps and bait stations as backup.
· Rat trapping indices down from 100 to 0% and few cats and stoats now being caught.
· Kiwi counts up 71% in 2006 and still increasing.
· Five minute bird call counts up an average of 45% over all species.
· Remaining Puketi kokako removed to safe locations where they are breeding with proposed reintroduction if rat numbers remain below 5% in the trap index.
· Seeking funding to reintroduce North Island robins.
Northland Regional Council is supporting landowners adjacent to Puketi Forest by funding biodiversity projects through the Environment Fund. This compliments the work of the Puketi Forest Trust as well as linking and extending the network of reserves and covenants in the area. In 2006 eight landowners adjacent to the forest received funding, some of which was supported by the National Biodiversity Condition Fund to fence blocks of forest and waterways on their properties.
NRC have so far supported and promoted the work of the Puketi Forest Trust with:
· Over 500 ha of private mature forest, wetlands, river margins and shrublands fenced.
· Linkage of two reserves of 472 ha and an addition of over 200 ha of fenced habitat to Puketi Forest boundary, which is currently included in the Puketi Trust management area.
· Linkage of several areas of private covenant totalling 150 ha.
· At least four new QEII covenants proposed as a result of fencing and follow up advocacy.
· Water quality improvement as a result of excluding stock from several kilometres of waterways including the fencing of a 7 km section of the upper reaches of Kerikeri River over several farms.
· Exclusion of stock from Kerikeri River compliments proposals from New Zealand Trail to establish walkway along Kerikeri River.
· General engagement of local landowners and community to biodiversity protection around Puketi Forest.
· The project is growing with more local landowners interested in fencing and covenanting around Puketi Forest and several new applications to the NRC Environment Fund in 2007.
NRC have also supported landowner control of pests by:
· Advice and assistance to landowners for pest control work in area.
· NRC biosecurity presence at field days and local workshops.
· Facilitation and transfer of pest based science advice to local community.
· Successful collaboration with other agencies for the release of mistflower biocontrol agents in Puketi area.
· Support local initiatives for proposed community pest plan and/or CPCA.