Russell State Forest is on the brink of collapse and millions of dollars are needed to save it, a leading Northland conservationist says.

Forest & Bird Northland advocate Dean Baigent-Mercer will present a talk in Whangarei tonight about a legacy of neglect and how to turn around the killing of a forest by pests.

Aerial film footage of Russell State Forest taken two years ago shows chewed-out, dying ancient rata, puriri, rewarewa and taraire.

"It's a tragedy that Russell State Forest has ended up like this," Baigent-Mercer said.


Russell State Forest covers over 11,500ha of native rainforest between the Bay of Islands and north Whangarei district. Around 8800ha are managed by Department of Conservation (DoC) and under Treaty claims by various Ngapuhi hapu.

DoC has allocated $380,000 this year to work with local hapu on drawing up a 20-year, multi-species, pest control programme for Russell State Forest.

Baigent-Mercer said "that was a step in the right direction".

"[But] for two years Forest and Bird has clearly pointed out that Northland DoC needs an extra $10 to $20 million over a decade to stabilise and turn around the forest collapse."

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

In August, Conservation Minister Maggie Barry announced the new funding for the Russell forest, boosting the sum DoC spent on predator control in Northland to $1.5 million.

Getting communities involved still offered the best hope for the region's forests, Barry said.

Baigent-Mercer's talk in Whangarei will cover Russell Sate forest's extinct native birds, the impact of introduced animals, collapsing forests in an age of climate change, tools needed to bring back the forest, and which native species could be returned.

Saving Russell State Forest From Collapse, The Butter Factory, from 5.30pm - 7pm tonight.