The Forest Bridge Trust
protect, enhance, connect
What is The Forest Bridge Trust?
The Forest Bridge Trust is a newly registered NZ charitable Trust with a vision to create a forest bridge where, with effective pest management, native wildlife can flourish from the Kaipara Harbour to the Omaha Estuary on the Pacific coast.
What do you mean by forest bridge?
Much of the land between the Kaipara and the Pacific has pockets of mature native bush remnants and wetlands. The Forest Bridge Trust would like to protect the native bush and wetlands on that land by fencing it and doing weed and pest control, and eventually connect these fenced bush fragments by planting native trees to create the forest bridge.
What difference will this forest bridge really make? Don’t you need a fenced sanctuary to keep birds safe?
Many people think that the only places that native animals are secure is either in island or fenced mainland sanctuaries where habitat can be protected and predators eliminated. These sanctuaries are wonderful places with thriving populations of critically endangered native wildlife, but they are expensive to maintain and keeping our endangered wildlife in sanctuaries means we lose our connection with them.
A safe habitat doesn’t necessarily require a fenced sanctuary. Thriving native bush and a robust predator control programme can protect native birds, reptiles and invertebrates and help their populations flourish and spread.
So what exactly is The Forest Bridge Trust doing?
The Forest Bridge Trust is raising funds for the purchase and installation of fences around the valuable native bush and wetlands and also raising funds for pest and predator control.
Our initial focus is in the 95,000 hectare Hoteo River catchment but eventually we aim to expand it to include the other catchments in the region.
Who owns the land in the area where you want the forest bridge established?
Most of the land is privately owned productive farmland with some forestry and life style blocks. There is also some land owned by the local iwi Ngati Whatua o Kaipara (Atuanui), and some land that has been covenanted to Auckland Council and the Queen Elizabeth II Trust.
Why are you doing work on private land? Isn’t that the owners’ responsibility?
There is no legal requirement for private landowners to fence native bush and do pest and predator control to enhance native wildlife.
However, most landowners love their land and the native plants and animals on it. But because of time and money constraints, fencing and maintaining bush cannot always be a priority.
So, what The Forest Bridge Trust aims to do is help landowners protect and enhance their native bush for the benefit of the wider Auckland and New Zealand communities.
Doesn’t the Auckland Council provide funds to landowners to fence off the native bush and wetlands?
Yes, there is some funding available for fencing, but there is a limited amount of funds and not every applicant is successful. Additionally, the fund it is a matching grant. So the landowner still has to pay 50% or more of the cost of the fencing.
So for those landowners who do get some Auckland Council’s funding assistance, The Forest Bridge Trust will contribute towards the landowner’s contribution of the grant.
Where no Council or other funding is available to the landowner, The Forest Bridge Trust will pay for all the fencing costs.
So where is the landowners’ contribution in all this?
The landowners will be contributing by fencing off the native bush on their productive land and not allowing stock incursions. They will also contribute towards pest and predator control in that area and keep the fence well maintained.
What if the landowner uses the fenced bush to make a financial gain (e.g. getting a subdivision or a transferable title)?
The landowner will be required to sign a legal contract stating that should a financial benefit be derived from the fenced bush, then the landowner will reimburse The Forest Bridge Trust all the funds contributed by The Forest Bridge Trust plus an administration fee.
What will ensure that the bush isn’t damaged by a future owner of the property?
There are covenant structures available both at the council and national levels that can be used to protect bush blocks. The Trustees of The Forest Bridge Trust are working with representatives from these organisations and their own legal counsel to develop alternatives so that each landowner will be able to choose the structure that best suits them.
So how does the community benefit?
The community will benefit as there will be more areas of pest and predator free native bush for native animals to breed and thrive in. A forest bridge will enable our endangered native birds to travel across the landscape safely and as our native wildlife population increases and spreads everyone in the community benefits. Additionally, several of these bush blocks have headwater streams that flow into the Hoteo River. Fencing these bush blocks will have the added benefit of providing headwater protection for the streams entering the Hoteo River thereby improving the water quality downstream.
But I don’t live near the Hoteo catchment. How does this help me?
New Zealand’s native plant and animal species are under serious threats from introduced predators and habitat destruction. This project will protect and connect bush blocks to restore habitat for the native birds and wildlife. We will have a predator control programme in place to protect the birds. The creation of a place for native NZ plants and animals to thrive benefits all New Zealanders – current and future generations.
We see this initial forest bridge as a starting point and our long term vision is for the bridge to spread north and south to include more bush areas.
So how soon will we see the benefits of the work you are doing?
With the help of landowners, we have identified a number of bush blocks throughout the Hoteo catchment and will begin fencing and restoration work as soon as funds become available.
An essential part of protection and restoration is pest and weed control and we plan to have a number of initiatives involving local schools and families.
Bush regeneration is a slow process but we will be updating the community regularly with news about our progress, such as fences installed, predators eliminated and increased birdlife.
How will local schools and families be involved?
The Forest Bridge Trust aims to get people to take action in their own backyards. We are especially keen on getting young people involved and engaged in conservation activities.
A programme called CatchIT Schools has been developed in association with The University of Auckland. It allows students in the area to engage with nature and become hands-on trappers. The programme is practical and educational. Students are drawn into meaningful science and maths activities as they analyse data while learning about pest and predator control. We also involve the students’ parents, whanau and the wider community in this programme.