Who are the Wildlife Warriors?
You, me and all the other people who care about our native birds and animals.
The Towering Tararuas
When you look at the majestic Tararuas you will notice the uniform height of the summits. This is because they were originally part of an ancient flat plain until about 10 million years ago when they were squeezed upward in what must have been an amazing series of earthquakes.
The peaks average 1300 to 1500 metres and over time erosion has worn away most of the original plain, leaving the mountains as we see them today, high, dramatic and very beautiful. The Tararuas cover 3,168 square kilometres from the Manawatū Gorge in the north to the Rimutaka Range, 100 kilometres to the south.
Manawatu from Ruapae, Northern Tararuas
The Waiohine Faulted Terraces are among the most famous geological features in New Zealand. They clearly mark the movement of the West Wairarapa fault over the last 35,000 years.
With each major movement of the fault, the land to the west lifted up and pushed forward to the north-west and the river developed a new set of terraces which, in turn, were off-set by the next major earthquake.
Over the last 15,000 years the average lateral displacement has been about 0.8 metres per 100 years. That is quite a bit of movement.
Ancient origins of iwi
By Joseph Potangaroa
Maori associations with Tararua maunga are long and enduring, stemming back to the earliest of ancestors who, according to oral history, first explored the land some 28 generations ago. The first person to name the mountains was Whatonga. After a long journey of exploration, and being so far from home, he gazed upon the twin peaks and thought of his two wives so he named the range ‘Tararua’.
For centuries Maori living in Ruamahanga River valley looked westward and marvelled at the beauty of Tararua maunga. Today tangata whenua gaze upon the slopes in reverence because it is the most prominent geographical sample of the embodiment of Papatuanuku, the earth mother. It is from the slopes of the Tararuas that her main artery, the Ruamahanga River, begins and thereafter carries life’s blood (water) down into the valley.
Maori established tracks over the Tararuas so that they could maintain kinship with tribes on the either side of the ranges. These tracks also ensured a quicker passage to follow seasonal food trails across what has always been inhospitable landscape. Archaeological evidence, in the form of adzes, obsidian knives and flakes and an umu [oven] are pointers to Maori regularly travelling across the range.
The remains of Pa (palisaded villages on higher ground) and Papakainga (unfortified villages on flats) in the foothills are testament to successive generations of families utilising the bountiful resources of Te Ururoa, the productive low lands where multitudes of flora and fauna could be sustainably extracted for human usage.
Tararua trig site
With European settlement came technology in the form of surveyors, the best known of whom was Morgan Carkeek who explored the ranges from early 1860. He produced the area’s first map in 1875. This required triangulation using sight lines from the highest peaks (on which were placed ‘trigs’). Trig sites remain today.
Introduced mammalian predators arrived at the same time as Europeans. Rats came off ships and thrived here. Stoats and weasels were introduced to control the rabbit population and possums were introduced for their skins.
These pests thrived here as unlike in their native habitats, they have no natural predators. The effect of these pests is disastrous on our native bird and animal population as well as the forest itself.
Possums dominate the canopy and eat all the young shoots, leaves and bark as well as destroying nests, eating eggs and young chicks. Rats, stoats and weasels run up and down in between destroying everything in their path.
Outdoor recreation drives conservation effort
There has been concern for conservation in the Tararuas since the mid-1890s when public concern at the rapid loss of natural landscapes motivated communities on both sides of the range to attempt to open the Tararua Range to people to visit for “scenery and aesthetic appreciation”.
As a result, track committees were set up in 1895 and the MP for Otaki, W.H. Field became a lifelong recreation and conservation advocate. Willie Field was subsequently honoured in the name of the first hut built by a tramping club. Field Hut, which was purpose built in 1924 is still in use and is the oldest hut remaining in the range.
It was thanks to the formation of the Tararua Tramping Club in Wellington in 1919 that a wider recreational use of the area was successfully achieved. This club was soon followed by others; the Victoria College (University) Tramping Club in 1921, the Hutt
Tramping club trip in the Tararuas Valley Tramping Club in 1923, and the Levin-Waiopehu Tramping Club and Masterton Tramping Club a few years later. Throughout the 1920s, trampers from these clubs penetrated to most parts of the range, gradually improving the maps, tracks and huts.
Tararua Forest Park – decades in the making
The idea of turning the Tararua range into a national park was unsuccessfully proposed in the 1930s. The idea re-surfaced again in the 1950s with another unsuccessful proposal to the National Parks Authority. They wanted a ‘forest park’ which would allow the Forest Service to foster recreation at the same time as concentrating on protecting forests, water supply and soil conservation.
It took a major scientific survey in the late 1950s which clearly established the extent of deer and goat damage to vegetation and the detrimental effect possums were having on rimu/rata/kamahi forest where their browsing was devastating the number of native birds and animals. As a result, the Forest Service began a comprehensive hut-building, bridge-construction and track formation programme to make all the affected habitats
Tararua map 1936 readily accessible to ground hunters. By the early 1970s the ground-hunting campaign had reduced the deer population significantly and the advent of helicopters had opened the range to commercial deer capture.
Tararua Forest Park became New Zealand’s first conservation park in 1987 with day-to-day management becoming the responsibility of a new Department of Conservation (DOC). This began the campaign for far greater emphasis upon conservation of natural and historic heritage.
Preserving the future of Tararua Forest Park with Project Kaka
DOC has a 10 year plan for pest control and forest restoration in Tararua Forest Park (see map). We have named this plan Project Kaka. It involves intensive pest control to rid the area of pests that are ravaging the forest and killing native wildlife. The 22,000ha belt provides a corridor for birds between Kapiti Island and Pukaha Mount Bruce sanctuaries.
It is our job to ensure Tararua Forest Park remains beautiful for future generations.
Volunteers for our pest control programme needed.Do you want to join in?
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer to help the team with pest control work then please contact email@example.com or phone our Masterton DOC office on +64 6 377 0700. We would love to hear from you.
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