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Published: 2007-04-13 00:00:00

Environment Waikato has made a significant contribution to a project designed to boost the health of the Waitomo Caves.

A $175,000 grant from the council’s natural heritage fund has helped the New Zealand Native Forests Restoration Trust purchase a 110-hectare bush block above the caves.

Named Tui Glen Reserve, it backs onto a Department of Conservation reserve and includes the headwaters of the stream that flows into the Aranui and Ruakuri cave systems.

It was formerly owned by the Frederickson family, long time supporters of the trust who have already commenced restoration work on the property.

“The purchase of this land is an opportunity for the trust to carry on the Fredericksons’ good work in partnership with the community, while helping to protect a national tourist icon,” Environment Waikato councillor Paula Southgate said.

The Department of Conservation also assisted with the purchase.  Tourism Holdings Ltd, which operates the Waitomo Caves attractions, said it could not contribute to the protection of this part of the cave ecosystem.

The trust will organise volunteer planting days designed to help the bush regenerate.

“This will reduce erosion and improve the quality of water flowing into the Waitomo Caves,” Cr Southgate said. “Keeping the stream healthy will also enhance the invertebrate life that sustains the glowworms.”

Tui Glen Reserve, which will be protected by a QEII covenant, will be officially opened this Saturday by the trust.

Trust chair Colleen Newton invited members of the public to take part in the celebrations, which begin at noon at the reserve on Te Anga Rd, Waitomo.

“Come and walk through the beautiful bush and see what a small community group can achieve,” she said.

“Everyone is welcome to come and enjoy a venison sausage and a cup of billy tea made with condensed milk, which I heartily recommend!”

Ms Newton thanked the Frederickson family, local trustees Arthur Cowan, Roy Dench and Malcolm Mackenzie, Environment Waikato and the generous private donors and local supporters who had made the Tui Glen Reserve project possible.

The New Zealand Native Forests Restoration Trust was established in 1980 as part of an effort to preserve this country’s remaining native forests.

In total, there are 10 trust properties in the Waikato region, totaling 2200 hectares. Nationwide, the Trust has 25 reserves protecting more than 5000 hectares of land for conservation purposes.

Many of the reserves are adjacent to Department of Conservation land, and all are protected by QEII covenants and open to the public.

Since 1998, Environment Waikato has supported six trust projects with contributions totaling $275,000.