Sav­ing Auck­land’s last vol­canic for­est

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - ELESHA ED­MONDS

The roar of the mo­tor­way is a con­stant re­minder of what once threat­ened the fu­ture of Auck­land’s largest re­main­ing lava flow for­est.

Road­ing, hous­ing de­vel­op­ments and pests are all en­e­mies of the Al­morah rock for­est, one of the rarest ecosys­tems in Auck­land.

Lo­cated be­side the Gil­lies Ave on-ramp and stretch­ing back to Al­morah Rd in Ep­som, the 1.4 hectare site is the largest sur­viv­ing patch of vol­canic ma­te­rial thrown up by Mt Eden more than 20,000 years ago.

Auck­land Coun­cil is now en­ter­ing its fourth year in a restora­tion pro­ject to con­trol weeds and pests in the for­est - to a cost of about $9000 to the Al­bert Eden Lo­cal Board.

Part of the work in­volved clos­ing the Gil­lies Ave on-ramp for three nights in May so 40 vary­ing sizes of tree privet could be re­moved.

Se­nior bio­di­ver­sity ad­vi­sor Mi­randa Ben­nett says staff have now be­gun to see the re­sults of their work with new veg­e­ta­tion and seedlings spring­ing to life.

‘‘We found a threat­ened fern in the re­serve which was a great find.. It’s one of the threat­ened species coun­cil are want­ing to man­age in the re­gion.’’

The team has also de­creased the num­ber pests who once roamed the for­est, Ben­nett says.

‘‘We can’t say it will erad­i­cate ro­dents per­ma­nently but have got ro­dents and pos­sums down to low lev­els that won’t neg­a­tively im­pact veg­e­ta­tion.’’

Ro­dents aren’t the only thing that has threat­ened the fu­ture of Al­morah rock for­est.

In the early 2000s, there was back­lash af­ter a de­vel­oper ap­plied to build 12 units on a prop­erty cov­ered by part of the for­est.

In 2014, an­other prop­erty owner was fined $16,250 af­ter be­ing pros­e­cuted by the Auck­land Coun­cil for re­mov­ing trees, plants and other parts of the lava flow.

Ben­nett says part of the next stage in restora­tion is de­vel­op­ing re­la­tion­ships with prop­erty own­ers who have part of the rock for­est on their prop­er­ties.

She says the plan is to sup­port the prop­erty own­ers with pest con­trol and look­ing af­ter the for- est.

‘‘Peo­ple must be a bit per­plexed about all the rocks and plants,’’ Ben­nett says.

‘‘We want to work with peo­ple to help to give ad­vice and sup­port.’’

ELESHA ED­MONDS / FAIR­FAX NZ

Se­nior bio­di­ver­sity ad­vi­sor Mi­randa Ben­nett with a threat­ened fern staff found grow­ing in the rock for­est.

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