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