Rotorua Weekender

Our native forests are worth fighting for

During his decadeslon­g fight for native trees, public interest has grown from a ‘modest-sized group’ to the soldout O Tātou Ngahere Conference at Te Papa, writes.


Aotearoa’s native forests have been evolving separately from the rest of the world for 100 million years. I know this is hard to contextual­ise. But, if we were to compact these 100 million years into the timeframe of a single year, then humans have been in Aotearoa for a mere four minutes.

In that time, we’ve managed to remove much of what is unique to our lands, including a large part of our diverse and totally unique native forest and the associated wildlife.

Before people first arrived in Aotearoa, it’s estimated that 80 per cent of our land was covered by native forest growth. That number now sits at less than 30 per cent.

Native trees have always had a special place in my heart. After 60 years as a forester, I’ve come to know I have to do as much as I can to ensure my grandchild­ren and their grandchild­ren can walk beneath canopies of mighty kauri, tōtara, ponga, and rimu. Just as I’ve been able to.

But over these years I’ve seen our native forest cover dwindle and its quality diminish.

More than two decades ago I joined some like-minded people who felt the need to save and grow the native forests. Initially, it was a modest-sized group.

They were like me, pretty ordinary folk. Scientists, farmers, and foresters who felt the same, and together we founded Tāne’s Tree Trust, with the goal of ensuring our descendant­s could experience the uniqueness our terrestria­l environmen­t has to offer.

In 2000 and 2010 we held native forest-focused conference­s. These were fantastic but in truth, we struggled to gain traction with most mainstream New Zealanders. People still weren’t convinced of their importance.

We didn’t give in, continuing to investigat­e, plant, and share the knowledge of how these magnificen­t trees protect and nurture our environmen­t and the very culture of Aotearoa.

Unless we catalysed some action, we and our descendant­s were less likely to see old-growth native forests in the future.

We know it’s imperative we share the knowledge and experience we have at Tāne’s Tree Trust to regenerate and manage native forest. We

 ?? Photo / DOC ?? Like me, some pretty ordinary folk are help curb the loss of our native forests.
Photo / DOC Like me, some pretty ordinary folk are help curb the loss of our native forests.

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