In 2015 Forest & Bird exposed the collapse of native rainforests across Northland using drone footage.

The images were shocking and an example of what is happening across all native forests without comprehensive pest control.

The native forests we filmed by drone are managed by the Department of Conservation.
There has been some outstanding work carried out by DoC that has prevented the extinction of Northland's kokako - but this is the exception, not the rule.

The $380,000 commitment by DoC this year to work with local hapu designing a 20-year, multi-species pest control programme for Russell State Forest is a step in the right direction.


For two years Forest & Bird has clearly pointed out that Northland DoC needs an extra $10-$20 million over a decade to stabilise and turn the forest collapse around.

Possums kill trees. Rats, stoats, ferrets, weasels, feral cats and possums decimate the birdlife night after night, year after year.

This money needs to be strictly targeted to saving forests and is separate from other DoC responsibilities like protecting dolphins in the Bay of Islands, myrtle rust, tourism infrastructure, kauri dieback etc.

This year's Conservation Budget showed little hope.

So when Conservation Minister Maggie Barry came to Kerikeri to make a pre-election announcement, it was her big chance.

But the upshot of the minister's announcement was that around $10,000 worth of traps over two years would be available for community groups in Northland to borrow - in total $300,000 worth of traps and training nationally.

Really? Northland's forest crisis is obvious.

Already community groups, hapu and the Northland Regional Council are doing the heavy lifting across Northland.

It's time the appropriate funding was targeted and DoC stepped up. More people need to be employed and a succession of skills needs to be passed on and spread within DoC.

There is too much pressure on too few people to do the job.

Already many groups bringing native forests back to life are doing pest control work for free on DoC land.

They also spend a lot of time applying for funding, have to pay insurance for volunteers and do extensive paperwork because they can't bear to watch these magnificent forests die on their watch.

The Government is beginning to stretch community goodwill too far without the appropriate funding for Predator Free 2050.

Stability and increased funding would mean DoC could actually plan a few years ahead. Right now DoC offices lurch from year to year not knowing what their annual budget will be next year and the year after.

This is a shambolic way to organise regional large scale pest control to turn around the collapse of native forests.

The forests want to live and life bounces back when the pests are under sustained control. The unfolding disaster has taken decades to create and will take 20 years of co-ordinated work to bring each forest back to good health.

The Government has also cut 100 DoC jobs nationally and substantially cut DoC's natural heritage budget while massively increasing tourism.

I believe in credit where credit's due but I am not going to praise a minister or a Government for crumbs, when volunteers are carrying the greatest extent of the pest control work across Northland.

I hope the 2018/9 Budget and future government budgets target the money to bring the last great native rainforests of the north back to life by working with all parties with interests.

■ Dean Baigent-Mercer is Forest & Bird's Northland Conservation Advocate