East Coast iwi 'shovel ready' to save their dying forest

By Aroha Mane

East Coast iwi guardians of Te Raukūmara Range are working to save their forest which lies between the Bay of Plenty and East Cape. Te Whānanu-ā-Apanui and Ngāti Porou have submitted a budget bid to the Minister of Conservation to support their restoration project.

The health of Te Raukūmara forest is vastly declining and the native trees and birds are slowly disappearing.

“What we discovered in going for our hīkoi and going into the heart of the Raukūmara, we could see it was being eaten from the inside out,” Ora Barlow-Tukaki, spokesperson for the Raukūmara Pae Maunga Restoration Project says.

Te Whānau-ā-Apanui Kaumātua Danny Poihipi described the damage that the Raukūmara had sustained.

“We've come here today to physically see the destruction of our forest by foreign animals. Here you can see what animals like deer, goats, possums and stokes are doing to destroy the forest.”

The Raukūmara Pae Maunga Restoration Project is an estimated $35 million iwi led project that includes agency collaboration with DOC, BOP regional council and NIWA.

“It looks at 150,000 hectares with a range of pest control options with up to 40 jobs that are involved in this proposal. NIWA is also basing a carbon watch programme, so we can actually start to measure what a recovering forest looks like in terms of carbon sync,” Barlow-Tukaki says.

The proposal is now in front of the cabinet and Barlow-Tukaki is encouraging ministers to give it the sign-off.

Regional Development Minister Shane Jones says, “That mountain range runs between Apanui and Ngāti Porou, and stretches towards the Central North Island. For a long time that forest has been overrun by possums.

“We don't only want to work on the Raukūmara Ranges we also want to create a port in Te Araroa to export local products whether it be meat, logs or other goods. A small tribe of the area disagreed. But those who did disagree with my idea to build the port don't live in Te Araroa."

Barlow-Tukaki says, “In this time of economic recovery with Covid-19, the Government is looking for shovel ready proposals and the Raukumara covers so many aspects of that which includes the regional economic recovery plan.”

Te Raukūmara Pae Maunga Restoration team is shovel ready and just waiting for the call.