The Pukenui Western Hills Forest Charitable Trust is a relatively “new kid on the block”. The Trust was formed in 2008 after a reasonably long gestation period, but has made up for it since by achieving a number of important conservation milestones.
At nearly two thousand hectares, Pukenui Forest, along with the Western Hills that border Whangarei City, is a large and very challenging forest and the much needed pest-control programme was always going to be very testing. Also, the set-up costs were going to be reasonably expensive.
Fairly early on, the plan was to first set up a 200 hectare block in the forest that was going to be intensively trapped and poisoned. Then, slowly but surely, over the years, and as time and effort came on stream, the pests in the rest of the forest would be addressed.
The name “Ark in the Park” was inspired by a similar intensive-trapping programme in the Waitakere Ranges near Auckland. The success there has seen the return of kokako and hihi (stitchbird) among other rare bird species, etc. This has inspired the Pukenui Trust to do the same.
Basically, what is now over 220 hectares has been gridded every 100 metres and at each corner is a modified bait station that delivers a toxin that deals to possums and rats. The modified bait station is the brain-child of DOC officer Nigel Miller, who could see that bait was often being taken by the wrong target animal. His modified bait station has proved to be a great success and possums and rats have now been reduced to low numbers. Also being trapped in the AIP area are feral cats and stoats. Hopefully much of the wildlife that used to be in the forest will return. However, once you start a project like this, you can never stop.
All the above work will start all over again next Spring to ensure that all our hard work will not have been in vain.