Ngāti Rēhia and Crown create kauri sanctuary

By Te Kuru o te Marama Dewes

The government is giving $6.25 million in One Billion Trees funding for a new Northland iwi Ngāti Rēhia kauri sanctuary.

Ngāti Rēhia has already shown its commitment to protecting kauri. Since 2018 iwi members have been clearing the selected site, building fences, testing the soil and adhering to biosecurity measures to ensure it is free of kauri dieback, with help from funding from the One Billion Trees fund.

Forestry Minister Shane Jones said the sanctuary would help protect kauri by creating New Zealand’s first bio-secure kauri sanctuary, free of kauri dieback disease.

“Clearing and caring for this land has been no easy feat but this is Ngāti Rēhia ancestral land and it is committed to using it to protect kauri and create educational and employment opportunities for their people,” Jones said.

Today’s funding announcement means Ngāti Rēhia can now move ahead with works such as:

► establishing pest-proof fencing;

► creating boardwalks and other requirements for biosecurity, such as installing and improving existing quarantine stations;

► further land clearing and planting activities; and

► employment and training of Ngāti Rēhia iwi members to become kaitiaki of their lands.

Preventing kauri dieback

“I am pleased to announce the establishment of a kauri sanctuary that will help protect this precious taonga for future generations. There is no known cure for dieback and, without innovations such as this, we may continue to see our kauri forests ravaged by the disease,” Shane Jones said.

In 2018, government funding of $288,000 was committed to a partnership between Ngāti Rēhia and Crown Research Institute Scion to determine whether ancestral land in Takou Bay was free of kauri dieback.

This involved soil testing and analysis for kauri dieback. The feasibility study was one of the first of its kind to determine whether kauri, or other native species, could be successfully established in Northland and remain disease-free.

A further $50,000 was then committed to protect the area once it was found to be suitable for a kauri sanctuary. This allowed fences to be built, paths to be cleared, and signage to be added to the boundaries.

The project has also included training and education opportunities for locals in establishing and managing indigenous forests.