Environment Waikato will work with private landowners, the Department of Conservation and a non-profit conservation group to protect native bush between Hamilton and Raglan that could be developed into a park for trampers and mountain bikers.
The council agreed to contribute $500,000 and waive some council consent charges for the 200-hectare block, identified 10 years ago as a key ecological site.
“By conserving this fine piece of native bush so close to Hamilton city we will achieve both environmental and community benefits,” said Chairman Peter Buckley.
The block is one of the larger forest fragments in the Raglan ecological district adjacent to the Four Brothers Reserve, which had previously been donated to DOC by former Waikato District councillor, the late Michael Hope. After Mr. Hope died, his sons contacted Environment Waikato and DOC about protecting the adjacent bush for public enjoyment. Environment Waikato has facilitated the project through its Natural Heritage Partnership Programme.
The council has partnered with the Native Forests Restoration Trust (NFRT), which will be contributing $80,000 to the purchase and working with the Department of Conservation to formally protect and manage the land in perpetuity.
Andrew and Duncan Hope said they were pleased the area would be opened to the public and thanked the agencies and the trust for their efforts to make the project a success.
Trustee Roy Dench said the NFRT was looking forward to working with the agencies on this and future natural heritage projects.
DOC will be responsible for developing the land, which has been identified as particularly suitable for tramping and mountain biking.
The area also is a key site for Environment Waikato’s Hamilton Halo project, which is designed to protect tui breeding sites and increase native bird numbers visiting the city. The site has received intensive possum and rat control for several years.
As part of the deal, the Hope family has agreed to work with the Trust to retire and plant native trees on a small steep area above the Mangakirikiri Stream that ultimately flows in Whaingaroa Harbour.