Residents around Maungatautari are supporting efforts to make the area into an ecological island.
This week’s Environment Waikato Environment Committee heard that plans for the 3200 hectare native forest project had achieved wide spread support from the community following a series of meetings to talk about the project. The aim of the project is to restore the forest, which is under government, Maori and private ownership.
The Trust intends to build a 47km pest proof fence, eliminate all mammalian pests, reintroduce threatened species such as kiwi, kokako, giant weta and tuatara, build some access gates and tracks, encourage visitors and establish an education facility for school groups, visitors and researchers.
Project Trust representative Annie Perkins said consultation had been developed with landowners, iwi and community members, with discussions on fencing, access to land and water and pest control in the area.
The Trust had trained 10 local people as facilitators and these people went in pairs to talk to people about the project. Two drop-in centres were established.
A total of 500 people were spoken to, and people said they liked the view, the spiritual value of the area, bush and birds and used the mountain as a weather vane.
They disliked the pests, lack of birds and the way tracks were maintained. They were also concerned about the cost of the project and who would pay, effects on landowners, access for locals and horse riders, and possible damage done by tourists.
The Trust has appointed a Chief Executive, and over the next year would focus on signing deeds of Covenant with adjoining landowners, raising funds, completing a community/stakeholder plan and writing an ecological restoration plan.
Environment Waikato contributed $40,000 towards the consultation costs of the project.