A government-funded collaboration between Northland iwi aims to stop the spread of kauri dieback and create up to 30 jobs.
Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan announced the initiative, which is part of the Jobs for Nature programme, during her visit to Northland for Waitangi Day commemorations.
The $3.5 million project will cover about 50 per cent of the region's kauri forests.
It will include Waipoua and Warawara, the two most significant old-growth forests in Northland, and Te Rerenga Wairua (Cape Reinga), one of the country's most significant tourist destinations.
The iwi involved are Te Roroa, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Wai and Ngāti Kuri.
Allan said without urgent action the disease could devastate iconic Northland forests.
"This significant investment in kauri recovery is vital to Māori culture, mana and identity. What we learn through undertaking this work at a scale will be invaluable and will be shared with other iwi in kauri lands.''
The three-year project would also create jobs and impart skills in a region with high unemployment, she said.
Another project, which aimed to restore the banks of Waipoua River, would create nine jobs in a community of fewer than 100 people — a major boost in an area where jobs were scarce, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic had prompted people to leave the cities and return to ancestral land in Northland.
The $760,000 Taiaororoa o Waipoua project, led by Te Roroa Environs, would create meaningful nature-based employment and training, Allan said.
It also helped address an intergenerational goal for Te Roroa to restore the Waipoua River, the banks of which were covered with ginger, tobacco weed, wilding pines and other pest plants.
Te Roroa Environs general manager Snow Tane said the project would add to substantial long-term restoration work already being carried out in the catchment by the iwi and the Department of Conservation.
The year-long project will see pest plants removed by hand pulling and sawing, scrub bar and chainsaw, along with gel treatment of cut plant stems and spraying.
Waipoua River runs through Waipoua Forest with a small area of farmland in its headwaters plus 950ha of regenerating forest, cultivated land and pine forest near the coast.
The areas where kauri protection will be carried out include Waipoua, Maunganui, Waima, Mataraua, Tokatoka, Trounson Park, Warawara, Herekino, Takahue, Ahipara, Pukepoto, Raetea, Te Paki, Hikurua, Kapo Wairua, Te Rerenga Wairua, Pukenui, Parihaka, Manaia and Glenbervie as well as the offshore islands of Aotea (Great Barrier), Te Hauturu-o-Toi (Little Barrier), Tawhiti Rahi me Aorangi (Poor Knights) and the Hen and Chickens. Kauri protection needs differ in each forest but include prevention, mitigation, education, treatment, restoration and surveillance.
■ What is kauri dieback?
Kauri dieback can kill kauri of all ages. It's a disease caused by a microscopic fungus-like organism, called Phytophthora agathidicida. It lives in the soil and infects kauri roots, damaging the tissues that carry nutrients and water within the tree, effectively starving it to death.