Friday, September 17, 2010
Pt 4: WHAKAIRIORA MOUNTAIN: RARE FOREST REMNANT AT RISK
Sacred puriri (has Maori legend attached)
From all that I have been able to learn from people with experience and expertise the
density of kawaka and seedling matai on Whakairiora Mountain at the base of
Ngunguru Sandspit exceeds anything seen elsewhere. Very likely it is the richest place
in the world for these sparse New Zealand native trees. This is just one aspect that
makes it a unique habitat type with great significance for preservation because of the
unusual botanical combinations. Could there ever be an area where such importance
Old growth forest- rare on coast
Old growth rata vine
With the current drought an important aspect emerges which has a bearing on the
ecological effect of subdivision roading. After four months without significant
rainfall plants in this coastal region are showing signs of stress. But not on Whakairiora.
There the canopy is as yet intact and excludes the drying effect of wind. But this will change
drastically if the planned roading system is carved through the forest, up and along
ridges and across slopes. This will admit the drying winds and have an impact on the
capacity of this remarkable remnant of coastal forest with its high diversity of native plants
to withstand the rigours of climate change. There is a vigour in the bursting abundance of
seedling kauri, kowhai, kawaka and matai that I think is related to this wind exclusion. I see
this area in the context of a great many forest remnants my wife Jan and I have visited and
documented [digital photo data base/Stepping Stones from Coast to Coast ebook and DVD]
between Maunganui Bluff on the west coast and Whangarei Heads on the east: a chain of forest
remnants that provides insights into the formerly continuous canopy
of forest that once clad this region.
All the forest abundance of Whakairiora is to be put in danger just for a few house sites in
a region which is all too demonstrably [expanses of scarred hillsides] more than
adequately supplied with massive areas of subdivision, much of it unbuilt on long after
curbing, channelling and reticulation were installed.
Such diverse rainforest and unusual botanical combinations
are unique on the coast.
New Zealand mourns several extinct birds such as the curve beaked huia, the moa and
the giant eagle. Now it is not a species but a unique habitat that is at stake: perhaps
soon to be gone forever. This is why I see Whakairiora mountain forest remnant and the
adjacent Ngunguru sandspit dunelands as of national significance, probably global
significance, worthy to be set aside as a Heritage Park.
And so, in calling for a moratorium on coastal subdivision until after a national review I
wrote: "In terms of coastal subdivision, things are desperate all around our New Zealand
coast. These are gold rush days of the landbankers, like the Chatham Islands crayfishing
bonanza and the rush to grab sea space for marine farming. I think Government should
call a moratorium on all coastal subdivision until after the election and there should be a
review as to where New Zealand wants to go: a green haven envied by the world-or a
On the opposite side of Ngunguru Bay from forest clad Whakairiora stands the
savagely ravaged Rehuotane mountain. The name seems tragic in that the forest has
been stripped from Tane's realm on those heights for a massive subdivision. The
summit is a big yellow clay scar like a skull cap with a single wind bent manuka on its
crest. This is the view from Whakairiora. Will it become a mirror?
It is called "land banking": using land as an investment. As coastal land with scarcity,
increases in value, it is being snatched up for speculation. Could this be the fate of
Whakairiora? Sacrificed to greed. Tane's realm: just some figures in a bank balance and
all that eroding clay from the bulldozers sluicing down into the sea and smothering the
I learnt from an Environment Defence Society study on landscape that 23 per
cent of subdivision in the Whangarei district has not been built on. How much of this is
supplying any real human need? Or just land-banking greed?
Footnote: in early January 2007 the bulldozers violated the mountain with roads. Huge
mulchers ground up the trees. Since then, an economic slump has suspended development.
But the locals are ready for a battle!
DVD PRESENTATION AVAILABLE: OCEAN FOREST: A JOURNEY ON WHAKIRIORA