Aerial film of Northland native forest canopy reveals an environment in peril and has conservationists accusing Department of Conservation of neglect.

The birdseye view of damage caused by pests such as possums also has a conservation leader calling for iwi to take stock of how sick the forests are and be more proactive.

Footage taken by a drone shows stark skeletons of totara, northern rata, puriri and pohutukawa amongst other trees yet to be so weakened by possum damage that they too die.

The significant north Whangaroa, Russell and Otangaroa forests are verging on the state of collapse, according to Northland Conservation Advocate for Forest and Bird, Dean Baigent-Mercer. He described the green depths now studded with the bleached corpses of trees as "the greying of the forest".


There is only a small window of opportunity to save important forests, he said.

It is vital the Government developed an emergency package following "the sustained negligence by DoC from underfunding." Mr Baigent-Mercer said.

Forest and Bird is calling for an increase in central and regional government funding for pest control to save 116,000 hectares of Northland's native forests over the next 10 years.

"The Northland forest collapse is an important example of what is happening in forests around the country that have missed out on sustained pest control over the last few decades," Mr Baigent-Mercer said.

Mita Harris, Northland Conservation Board chairman, said birds, bats, bugs and lizards were also under constant attack from possums, rats, stoats, ferrets, weasels and feral cats.

"It's really shocking to see the bush collapse in just 10 years in some places," Mr Harris said. "Hapu need to take stock of how sick our forests are.

"The great northern native forests are internationally significant and giving them the lifelines they deserve is long overdue. Their capacity to recover is incredible when all the pests are removed. This, however, will take commitment and action from Government, hapu, funders and the community."

Spokeswoman Carolyn Smith said DoC had an active pest control programme but needed to prioritise its projects.


DoC recently completed an aerial drop over 7000ha in the Warawara forest, north of Hokianga.