• Nick Smith

The Minister of Conservation Nick Smith today announced the protection, through the Nga Whenua Rahui Fund, of 3400 hectares of indigenous forest of the Maraekowhai block, in the upper reaches of the Whanganui River. Mr Smith congratulated the Maori owners' actions in seeking long term protection for their indigenous forests.

"The inclusion of the Maraekowhai block in the protected system is seen as extremely positive. This agreement ensures that the owners retain the ownership and management of their lands while formally protecting the unique native forests", said Mr Smith.

The owners are receiving compensation for loss of income incurred by setting aside the forest for protection. The block contains high quality stands of tawa, rimu and large matai, with their associates species of miro and totara. The land is administered by the Maraekowhai Whenua Trust and lies close to the northern end of the Whanganui National Park, near the Ohura river. It adjoins the Tangarakau Conservation Forest on its northern boundary.

"The protection of natural areas, and especially high quality indigenous forests adjacent to a National Park, was a real bonus. It ensures the retention of forest corridors for natural ecosystems to survive. The long-term prospects for bird life in the area are improved with a new security for their habitat."

"I hope the formal protection of this block of land will encourage other owners of indigenous forest to follow through with preserving their forests under the Nga Whenua Rahui Fund."

The Maraekowhai Whenua Trust lands are culturally very important to Whanganui Maori, as they are sited very close to the sacred niu poles on the Maraekowhai Historic Reserve. On site today, the Minister of Conservation will vest the reserve in the Maraekowhai Whenua Trust, representing the Ngati Hauaroa Te Rangi Hapu.

"This vesting is another example of where the Department of Conservation and local Iwi are working in harmony to enhance the protection of our natural and historic heritage."