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Published: 2012-09-12 00:00:00

Two innovative environmental projects have received a financial boost from Waikato Regional Council.

Adam Forbes, a PhD student at the University of Canterbury’s School of Forestry, will receive $4500 from the environmental initiatives fund to investigate indigenous forest succession in older production forests. The research will be carried out in Waikato’s Kaingaroa Forest.

The council’s finance and audit committee yesterday heard that New Zealand has one of the worst records of indigenous biodiversity loss on earth, with around 85 per cent of the country’s indigenous lowland forest now gone. Reestablishment of indigenous forest on open sites is typically difficult and costly.

Mr Forbes’ research proposes an innovative look at what happens in terms of biodiversity in plantation forests that are much older than typically found. The committee heard that the work will help managers understand what happens in older (or non-harvest) forests in terms of biodiversity and carbon sequestration. The potential for the sustainable harvest of indigenous trees that are part of the natural succession will be investigated, as well.

The outcomes of the research would be useful to the council in promoting long-term sustainable land management, the committee heard.

At the conclusion of his project, Mr Forbes intends returning the more valuable electronic equipment purchased with the funding so it can be donated by the council to community groups.

The second grant of $5000 was awarded to a volunteer project which aims to improve native bird density and diversity in Raglan.

A Rocha NZ is an international nature conservation organisation which encourages New Zealanders to care for the natural environment through hands-on community-based projects

The committee heard that A Rocha already has an intensive pest management programme on the Upper Wainui Reserve portion of Karioi in Raglan. This project has been operating since 2009 and aims to increase native bird density and diversity and improve their habitat. A specific restoration target is grey-faced petrel. The grey-faced petrel (or oi) is a burrow-nesting seabird that is particularly vulnerable to rats and other introduced predators.

This funding will provide support to a steering group, which will include representatives from Waikato Regional Council, the Department of Conservation, local iwi and community groups. The steering group will consult with stakeholders and the community to write a strategic management plan for integrated pest control over the entire mountain. The group raised the possibility of a “super-sized” project for Karioi similar to the Hamilton Halo that provides intensive rat and possum control to restore native bird populations.

The group’s ultimate vision is regular pest control on Mt Karioi to enable reintroduction of bird species, habitat protection for freshwater species, and the preservation of a natural coastal landscape.