Three iwi plan sanctuary to bring wildlife back to National Park area

10:44 am on 30 March 2019

Three Ruapehu tribes are leading a partnership with the government to create a sanctuary that spreads for hundreds of hectares.

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Native wildlife has plummeted in the area between Whanganui (pictured) and Tongariro, so local iwi want to create a pest-free sanctuary. Photo: 123rf

Uenuku, Tamakana and Tamahaki have shared their plan for the first iwi-driven biodiversity restoration sanctuary, called Pōkāka EcoSanctuary, with the Minister of Conservation.

The planned "inland island" will start at Erua near National Park township.

The tribes have formed a group called the Uenuku Charitable Trust and its lead negotiator, Chris McKenzie, said it was important to address the growing concern about conservation issues in their ancestral area.

Wildlife had been decimated by milling of the Waimarino sub-alpine native forests at the turn of the century, and more recently, by poor pest management, encroaching farmlands, and the increasing footprint of tourism, Mr McKenzie said.

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Uenuku trust wants to return species, such as kākā, to National Park and surrounding areas. Photo: Tomas Sobek / 123rf

Iwi had always seen lush wildlife in the area between Tongariro and Whanganui National Park, but in recent years that had changed, he said.

The tribes want to re-establish species such as kāka, kākapō and wētā.

"Most of the traditional names of the places in that area are named after the abundance of birds, those particular birds that I spoke about, but sadly many, many of those species have not been seen in that area for a long, long time," Mr McKenzie said.

First, the trust wants to set up a 200ha pest-free area in unique forest plateau habitat. A fenced pest-free area could be surrounded by a buffer zone that is intensively pest controlled and connected to other parts of the forest.

The trust hopes to cover 2700ha and to introduce tourism eventually.

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