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Published: 2017-12-20 16:45:00

A wee gem that’s home to rare native animals in the Coromandel Peninsula has been given $154,990 over four years by Waikato Regional Council’s Natural Heritage Fund for predator control.

Mahakirau Forest Estate, 600 hectares of native forest divided into 24 privately-owned land blocks, has strict introduced plant and animal controls to protect a number of threatened species, including the Coromandel striped gecko, Hochstetter’s and Archey’s frogs, North Island Brown kiwi, Helm’s butterflies, painted cave wētā, longfin eel and kōkopu.

The Mahakirau Forest Estate Society Inc (MFESI) was established in 2001 and has been undertaking pest control on behalf of all the landowners. The group has previously had funding support from the council through its Small Scale Community Initiatives Fund.

MFESI intends to expand and upgrade its existing trapping and bait station network to ensure strong defensive buffer zones against re-infestation, and intensify efforts in the known habitats of endangered species.

It aims to reach near zero predator levels by 2021 so it can reintroduce other native species lost to the estate.

The grant for MFESI was one of three Natural Heritage Fund applications approved by the finance committee at its December meeting: Tongariro Natural History Society was given $126,750 over three years for riparian restoration of 25 hectares along the Waiotaka River, and Waikato Raupatu River Trust/Nikau Whanau Trust was given $84,000 towards the purchase of 13 hectares of the Matahuru Wetland at Lake Waikare.

Finance committee chairperson Jane Hennebry said the council is committed to helping landowners with pest control in sites that have high ecological and biodiversity values.

“Mahakirau Forest Estate has outstanding ecological values and a project of this magnitude is not something that anyone can tackle alone.

“We are pleased with the dedication of the Mahakirau group in ensuring their land provides safe harbour and passage for wildlife on the Coromandel Peninsula. Their work contributes to the wealth of our biodiversity,” Cr Hennebry said.

The Natural Heritage Fund has been in place since 2005 and is derived from the natural heritage targeted rate of $5.80 per property. The total amount allocated per year to the fund varies but is usually around $730,000.