A $19 million investment in the Kaimai-Mamaku Ranges Forest Restoration Project will boost conservation efforts in the area and create about 60 jobs.
The Kaimai-Mamaku Ranges Forest Restoration Project comprises six areas, or ecological hubs, covering more than 240,000 hectares from Te Aroha to Tokoroa, with specific conservation goals for each area.
Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage announced the $19m investment, over four years, today.
The project is a collaboration between the Department of Conservation, iwi/hapū, the Bay of Plenty and Waikato Regional Councils, community conservation groups and organisations such as Forest and Bird across the Bay of Plenty and Waikato.
"The $19m in funding and the pest and predator-control work it enables will help protect rare species including the Te Aroha stag beetle, kōkako and kiwi along with long-tailed bats and precious kauri trees," Sage said.
About 60 jobs are expected to be created through the investment over four years, which is part of the Government's $1.3 billion Jobs for Nature programme.
"This is a large area which extends ki uta ki tai, from mountains to sea and which has been very badly affected by introduced pests such as goats, possums and rats, and in some places high browsing pressure from red deer.
"This browsing and predation pressure has created a crisis for the ngahere/forest. Browsing has destroyed the understorey of shrubs and seedlings and the forest's ability to regenerate itself."
Ramping up efforts to remove rats, stoats and possums through bait stations and trapping and other control methods as well as controlling goats is the initial focus for the restoration effort.
Kaimai-Mamaku is a special area because of the diversity of tree species. It is the major water catchment for the western Bay of Plenty as well as a significant area for recreation.
It contains kauri stands that are currently considered to be free of kauri dieback disease which has affected other kauri forests.
"It's important we act now to rebuild the forest, remove pests that damage it, and protect these taonga species. We've already lost kākāriki/parakeet; hihi/stitchbird, whio/blue duck, weka, tieke/saddleback and taiko/petrel from these areas.
"Healthy forests are a key natural assets for the Bay of Plenty region providing economic, cultural and recreational opportunities as well as being a source of clean water and carbon storage and being important for their own sake.
"The forum involving local and central government agencies, iwi/hapū, community conservation groups, Forest & Bird, NZ Deerstalkers Association, primary industries and the power industry has made an excellent start on this project over the past few years. I hope to see this project grow, provide jobs and help people reconnect with the whenua and as kaitiaki in the ngahere o Kaimai-Mamaku," Sage said.
On top of the $19m Jobs for Nature funding, the Bay of Plenty Regional Council is contributing $1.5m over five years into animal pest control on public conservation land which is starting in 2020/21.