Families have reclaimed a popular Far North picnic spot which had been marred for years by bad behaviour, vandalism and rubbish.

The Department of Conservation closed the Forest Pools campground, off State Highway 1 north of Okaihau, late last year after complaints from the local community.

Locals formed a group, Te Mauri o Waihou, to work with DOC to transform the troubled campground into a picnic area for daytime use.

Since then volunteers have also upgraded signs, carried out planting and landscaping, and installed bollards to separate cars and picnickers.


Te Mauri o Waihou now looks after the area day to day, only calling on DOC rangers when needed.

Interim secretary Tui Barnett of Okaihau said the community's sense of ownership had been restored.

"Everybody's raving about how quiet it is again. It's the best summer we've had in years. It's good to see families going there again with young children, using it the way we used to."

Problems used to include people taking advantage of the campground by staying all summer, threats and aggression between different groups, and litter and vandalism.

Another improvement was DOC's installation of a new toilet, decorated during a family day in December by a Chilean-born Whangarei street artist who goes by the name Chile. He hoped working on the mural with local children would help them appreciate Forest Pools' beauty and deter tagging.

The Rotary Club of Waipapa donated and installed three park benches built by club members with materials paid for by fundraisers such as their annual book fair.

DOC ranger Dan O'Halloran said the partnership with Te Mauri o Waihou demonstrated the power of getting communities involved in conservation.

"It's good to see the locals banding together for this project. The idea is for locals to self-regulate and police the place, and we're there as back-up."