Crown listens to Ngāti Porou about saving the Raukumara Forest

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

The Crown are working towards a commitment with Ngāti Porou and others to manage the Raukūmara Range, which the iwi say has areas at imminent risk of biodiversity collapse.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage has seen first-hand the destruction within the forest, “I have never been in forest before where there are so many deer and they are so hungry that they are eating the bark off the trees and ringbarking and killing those trees, trees from (unclear pronunciation) to tōtara, where the understory has been completely browsed so you can see through the trees for metres.”

Local conservationist Tina Ngata of Ngāti Porou says, “You hear more manu in the middle of the city than what you hear in the Raukumara and there really is the ūkaipō for us for the biodiversity, we should be able to hear multiple species.”

Pests are killing native trees and causing a decline in the numbers of animals and native plants in the forest.

“You should not be able to see all of these grey tops, you should not be able to see a hundred metres into the distance because there's no understory, you should be able to hear your feet crackling on the ground from the dry leaves and the hard soil, you should not be seeing all these hillsides slipping into the headwaters of our awa (river)”, says Ngata.

Minister Sage says, “That is a forest that has too many deer, and too many possums and we need to get on top on that.”

They says there is is commitment between Crown and iwi to work towards co-management of the Raukumara.

Te Rūnanga Nui o Ngāti Porou spokesperson Rei Kohere says, “Well we've agreed that we will have a joint Iwi-crown umbrella group, so there'll be two iwi and the Crown so that will have the overall say, but we will be looking to appoint our own people at whatever level we need them to be in.”

Minister Sage says local council can do more to enforce a reduction in goat numbers.

“The bay of Plenty of Regional Council in it's regional pest management strategy is much tougher on goats than the Gisborne District Council, we need a commitment in a regional pest management strategy so that all land-holders and land-owners are committed to bringing goat numbers down.”

Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Porou says it's not a short-term plan, it's a forever plan.