The heritage property on Mt Taranaki's western flank is the centre of research and propagation in a conservation project led by Massey University.

This project is supported by Pukeiti's owner, Taranaki Regional Council, the Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust and the NZ Rhododendron Association.

"When you consider those at other gardens, New Zealand has 500 species, sub-species and varieties of rhodo out of the 1300 that exist in total. We're an important player," the Council's Regional Gardens Manager, Greg Rine.

New Zealand's Rhododendron Ex Situ Conservation Project is led by plant specialist Dr Marion MacKay of Massey University, with key groundwork centred on Pukeiti.

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With funding support from the Rhododendron Trust, Council staff and Trust members are acting on Dr MacKay's assessments of the conservation status of the rhodo species, subspecies and varieties at Pukeiti and elsewhere in New Zealand.

Those on the extinction 'red list' are being propagated and distributed to botanic and public gardens across the country.

"The idea is to have these beautiful plants growing at a variety of locations, given how vulnerable they are in their natural habitats," says Greg.

The Trust Chairman, Gordon Bailey, says the project adds a scientific dimension to the strong relationship between the Council as owner of Pukeiti and the Trust as a significant supporter.

"With one of the Southern Hemisphere's largest collection of rhododendrons, its unique rainforest setting, and the experience built up by Council staff and Trust members, Pukeiti is ideally placed for this work."

Pukeiti is the front line in Restore Kaitake, part of the wider Towards Predator-Free Taranaki project.

A virtual barrier of 1300 traps is strung across the width of the property so that it and the area below, all the way to the sea, can become a Zero Possum Zone.