• Nick Smith

The Minister of Conservation Nick Smith today announced, in Northland, the protection of a 654 hectare area of indigenous forest under a Nga Whenua Rahui kawenata (covenant).

"This is the first major kawenata of its type in Northland and will see 32 separate remnants of native forest owned by Ngati Hine set aside for protection by this voluntary agreement. This initiative is not only significant in that it sees a large area of indigenous forest protected, but also shows the way forward through the intense controversy surrounding the implementation of the Resource Management Act."

"The Far North District Council has over-emphasised the use of regulatory mechanisms for protecting the remaining forests in the Far North, without sufficiently exploring voluntary mechanisms, such as Nga Whenua Rahui and Forest Heritage Fund. Whereas regulatory mechanisms tend to antagonise property owners, voluntary mechanisms build good relationships, whilst achieving the same conservation outcome."

"I am not arguing that there is no place for regulatory provisions under the Resource Management Act. It is a matter of balance. A combination of voluntary mechanisms, in parallel with the regulatory approach needs to be used."

The kawenata protects remnants of native forest, in amongst 5000 hectares of commercial pine forest, at Motutau, located about 50 kilometres northwest of Whangarei. The area protected includes magnificent kauri, podocarp and broadleaf forests, tall shrubland kanuka and wetland kahiketea swamp. Negotiations between Ngati Hine and Nga Whenua Rahui have taken several years.

Nga Whenua Rahui is a Government funded scheme that assists Maori land owners to provide permanent protection for their forests. The Government funds similar programmes for non-Maori forests, through the QEII Trust and Forest Heritage Fund.

"Seeing this land set aside for future generations will benefit all New Zealanders. Ngati Hine has provided a fine example for others to follow, and I wish to put on record my grateful thanks for their support in this initiative."

"I have asked Tumu Te Heuheu, Paramount chief of Tuwharetoa and Chair of Nga Whenua Rahui, to sign the kawenata with Ngati Hine at a ceremony, in Northland, on 11 December 1997."