Three Ruapehu tribes and conservation experts have shared with the Minister of Conservation new developments in plans for an eco-sanctuary on forested plateau near National Park Village.
Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage, government officials and Forest and Bird staff members Kevin Hague and Kevin Hackwell visited with Uenuku Charitable Trust (UCT) last month. The trust represents the Uenuku, Tamahaki and Tamakana iwi and is developing ideas for an "inland island" eco-sanctuary.
It would consist of 200ha fenced against predators, with intensive predator trapping in the forest surrounding it. It would be a regional source of rare forest birds such as hihi and tieke, pekapeka (bats) and insects, which would disperse naturally into the surroundings.
The planned site is between Erua and National Park Village, west of State Highway 4, and has the working name of Pōkākā EcoSanctuary.
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It would be the first iwi-driven eco-sanctuary in New Zealand, UCT chairman Aiden Gilbert said, and would be founded on traditional kaitiakitanga (conservation stewardship) and mātauranga (knowledge).
Biodiversity in the area was decimated by the milling of Waimarino sub-alpine forests in the early 1900s, he said, and more recently by an influx of pests, continued species loss, the advance of farmland and the increasing numbers of tourists.
"The hapū of Uenuku, Tamakana and Tamahaki are deeply committed to addressing these significant issues in some small way," he said.
The iwi will need help from the community, conservation groups and government to progress their vision. Sage was able to see the conservation values they seek to protect first-hand during her visit.