|Tane Mahuta - Lord of the Forest|
One of the highlights of the Hokianga and Kauri Coast is this superb Forest Sanctuary abounding with rare New Zealand flora and fauna, mighty kauri, nocturnal kiwi, feather-like ferns, amongst a sub-tropical rainforest - this is the Department of Conservations 9105 hectare Waipoua Kauri Sanctuary.
The road through the forest passes by some splendid huge kauris. Turn off to the Forest Lookout just after you enter the park - it was once a fire lookout and offers a spectacular view.
A fully grown kauri can reach 60 metres and have a trunk five metres or more in diameter. They are slow growing and some kauris are 2,000 years old.
Several huge trees are easily reached from the road. Te Matua Ngahere the 'Father of the Forest', has a trunk over five metres in diameter, possessing the widest girth of any surviving kauri tree. This massive tree is a 20-minute walk from the main road. Close by are the Four Sisters, a graceful collection of four tall trees in close proximity. .
From the same access road you can follow a half-hour walking track to the Yakas Tree, the eighth largest kauri in New Zealand.
Further up the road is Tane Mahuta, "Lord of the Forest", the largest kauri tree in New Zealand. It stands close to the road and is estimated to be 2,300 years old. At 47 metres it is much higher than Te Matua Ngahere - but doesn’t have the same impressive bulk - although its total trunk volume is greater.
The History of the Forest
The Maori tribe Te Roroa are the Tangata Whenua people of the land, they lived here for hundreds of years, snaring the still to be seen Kukupa (native wood pigeon). In the 19th Century, the European first set foot amongst the giant kauris and the forests were soon exploited for their durable timber. Young kauri (known as rickers) were felled in their thousands to provide ship masts and spars.
Proclaimed in 1952, after much public pressure and antagonism at continued milling, - Waipoua and the neighbouring forests of Mataraua and Waima, make up the largest remaining tract of native forest left from the once extensive Kauri forests of northern New Zealand. The remnants are now under the protection of the Department of Conservation.There is no milling of mature kauri trees nowadays, except under extraordinary circumstances such as for the carving of a Maori canoe.
Why the forests are so important
Kauri seedlings need plenty of light, so kauri trees usually begin life growing amid manuka scrubland in forest clearings formed by windfall or fire. Adolescent trees form a tapering trunk and distinctive narrow conical crown. Tall adolescent kauri have narrow pole trunks, but as trees mature the trunk thickens and the lower branches are shed, giving form to the clean straight trunk of the adult tree.
Kauri forest contains an abundance of other plant types including large trees like taraie, kohekohe, kowhai and northern rata. Beneath the forest canopy, the understorey and shrub layers can be equally diverse. Underneath mature kauri, tall dense stands of kauri grass and gahnia are prevalent. mairehau, hangehange, neinei, kiekie and ferns are also common
The forests of Waipoua are vitally important refuges for threatened wildlife. The endangered North Island kokako is found in high, wet plateau country, but the small population is vulnerable to predation, and competition with possums. Waipoua may well contain the biggest remaining population of North Island brown kiwi, with numbers reaching into the thousands. The native forest parrots, kakariki and kaka are occasionally seen but are no longer common.
More abundant is the NZ Pigeon (or kukupa) which plays a vital role spreading the seeds of many plants. Fantail, pied tit, tui, grey warbler, shining cuckoo and kingfisher are also fairly common.
The McGregor Memorial Reserve
On the south-eastern boundary of the Waipoua Kauri forest is the 350 hectare McGregor Memorial Reserve. It contains regenerating kauri and codocarp forest and is the habitat of the kiwi and kauri snail.
The kauri snail is found only in New Zealand, is carniverous and has a distinctive brown, glossy shell 3 inches in diamater. The Pupurangi (kauri snail) is carnivorous and captures and eats worms.
As manuka (tea-tree) is an ideal cover under which native trees grow, it is being planted over former grassland in the reserve.
To reach the reserve turn off SH12 onto Marlborough Rd, about one kilometre south of the Katui Homestead. The entrance to the reserve is four kilometres down Marlborough Road.
Walks of the Kauri Coast, Northland 1, 2 & 3 is available from the Information Centre in Dargaville. The brochures cover more than 28 walks, including all the main ones in Waipoua Kauri Forest.