Public submissions are now open on how to manage Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari the Waikato's 3400ha mainland ecological island surrounded by a 47km pest-proof fence.
The draft Maungatautari Scenic Reserve Management Plan is an overarching document that sets the vision for the reserve and guides decisions on everything from restoration to the development and management of visitor and volunteer activities.
The plan follows extensive collaboration between Waipā District Council, Ngāti Koroki Kahukura and key partners such as the Department of Conservation, Waikato Regional Council and Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust.
The plan covers the 2500ha of scenic reserve land within the pest-proof fence.
Within what is one of the world's longest pest-proof fences, Sanctuary Mountain's ancient forest offers a haven for populations of many of New Zealand's most endangered species such as birds, skinks, geckos, frogs, bats and insects.
"Maungatautari Scenic Reserve is one of our district's most precious taonga (treasure).
"It has a deep cultural history, going back thousands of years, is hugely significant to Māori and is the living, breathing embodiment of years of teamwork across multiple sectors," says the council's planning and community services group manager, Debbie Lascelles.
"The plan provides a framework to guide how the maunga will be taken care of, who will take care of it, and what activities are permitted on and around it so we can continue the outstanding work that has already been achieved."
Maintaining the pest-proof fence remains a key consideration for the plan, along with access, obtaining external funding, robust volunteer and education programmes as well as guidance on what activities are allowed.
"Maungatautari certainly is a sacred place. The lush flora and fauna and sweet birdsong as you walk the many tracks throughout the reserve leave a lasting impression. It's a place to fill and refresh your soul in nature. Just as it was meant to be," Lascelles said.
Vulnerable bird populations already established at Maungatautari include the hihi, kaka, takahe, North Island brown kiwi and kokako.
Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari holds national significance with a very successful breeding programme, producing four chicks from two takahe breeding pairs in the last season alone.
The draft plan document and survey is available online here for 10 weeks.
It is also available physically at the Waipā District libraries and council offices.
Submissions can be made online, by letter or phone.
The story of Maungatautari
• In 2014 the Ngāti Koroki Kahukura Claims Settlement Act ("the Act") was passed. In the Act, the Crown acknowledges the cultural significance of Maungatautari to Ngāti Koroki Kahukura, Waikato-Tainui, Ngāti Hauā and Raukawa which is regarded as a tupuna (ancestor) and living taonga (treasure).
The Act required a review of the reserve management plan.
The draft plan acknowledges the significance of the Maungatautari to mana whenua and provides for them to have a living and enduring presence on the maunga.
Protecting and restoring NZ native and endangered species, enhancing biodiversity and maintaining the delicate ecosystem of Maungatautari remain key features of the Maungatautari Scenic Reserve Management Plan, highlighting the importance of Maungatautari as a living treasure to the Waipā district, nationally and internationally.
As a result of the Ngāti Koroki Kahukura Claims Settlement Act, Maungatautari Scenic Reserve is symbolically owned by Te Hapori o Maungatautari; an entity that includes Ngāti Koroki Kahukura, Ngāi Hauā, Waikato-Tainui, Raukawa, and the community of Maungatautari represented by the mayor of Waipā District.
Waipā District Council remains the administering body for the reserve and works closely with mana whenua directly and the Maungatautari Reserves Committee when making decisions related to the reserve land.
The rest of the 3400ha area is owned by multiple Māori land and private landowners who have allowed their land to be included within the pest-proof fence to create this vast area of remnant indigenous forest.