Two Northland environmental groups say swamp kauri mining in the Far North is pushing a rare native orchid toward extinction.

Much of the population of the fragile Thelymitra Ahipara, one of only two native species of sun-orchids, has been wiped out by what is probably illegal swamp kauri excavation, the Northland Environmental Protection Society (NEPS) claims.

The NEPS and Far North branch of Forest and Bird are calling for tougher measures to protect wetland environments.

Any wetland with threatened species - such as the critically endangered native orchid - was protected from drainage and swamp kauri mining, NEPS chairwoman Fiona Furrell said.


"This could only happen by illegal digging," Ms Furrell said of recent findings the orchid has disappeared at sites damaged by what appears to be kauri extraction.

"Illegal swamp kauri trade could be stopped if the Far North District Council, Northland Regional Council and the Ministry of Primary Industries actually did the enforcement work we pay them to do."

Thelymitra Ahipara grows in peat bogs near Ahipara, Karikari Peninsula and Kaimaumau. Growing up to 40cm tall when in flower, it has a pale purple stem with fleshy green bracts. Its pale blue or mauve coloured flower buds are 1-1.5 cm across and it flowers in October and November.

Far North Forest and Bird chairman Dean Baigent-Mercer said that, as well as Northland's remaining wetlands being degraded by swamp kauri mining, threatened species of plants, birds and geckos were being hit hard.

Swamp kauri is also legally sourced, as the Ministry of Primary Industries issues permits for its extraction.

There were millions of square metres of swamp timber from Far Northland wetlands stockpiled at the Ruakaka yard of Oravida Kauri Ltd, Mr Baigent-Mercer said.

The swamp kauri is estimated to be worth $5000-$8000 a cubic metre. Oravida Kauri did not respond to questions from the Northern Advocate.