Hope for the return of the 'dawn chorus' in Northland's Russell Forest

A kereru.
A kereru. Photo credit: Getty

A return of the dawn chorus in Northland's Russell Forest is a top priority for the local community.

A hui between nine hapū and the Department of Conservation (DOC) is being held at Waikare Marae on Saturday to discuss the implementation of a 20-year Forest Health Plan.

Russell Forest Rōpū spokesperson Kara George says the aim is to eradicate pests and restore native bird-life in the 8000 hectare forest.

"The possums have eaten away at the forest canopy and so the top has died," he says. "One of the objectives is to eradicate those pests and return what has been lost in that forest."

Mr George wants to hear the forest come alive again.

"The birds have virtually disappeared - if you go there now you won't hear any kind of dawn chorus, so to return all of that we need to work through the birds' food chain."

The Department of Conservation is backing the plan, with Whangārei-based ranger Warren Morunga put in place to support the hapū-led initiative.

"If they have any queries on different types of control methods - whether it's trapping, bait stations or anything else - then I provide that to the group."

Aerial drops of the controversial poison 1080 is one of the pest-control methods that will be discussed at the hui.

"We know it's the most effective method if you want results quickly," says Mr George. "However, our people have been quite worried about how it affects the waterways and personal animals."

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage is a big supporter of the Forest Health Plan, but says aerial drops will be necessary and are more cost-effective.

"The Russell Forest has some quite steep areas where it's not possible to trap," she says.

"What's needed is a combination of trapping in areas close to townships as well as aerial control in the steep and difficult country."

Ms Sage says the community-led initiative is exactly what is needed if New Zealand is to meet its predator-free 2050 goal.

"It's only through a partnership between central government agencies like DoC, as well as regional councils, iwi-hapū and community organisations that we can get predator numbers down.

"We're looking to significantly increase DoC funding, unlike the previous National Government, so it's got a stable baseline to do this vital work."