The rainforest is owned by the Rowallan Alton Incorporation, whose shareholders are descendants of Māori allocated land under the South Island Landless Natives Act 1906.
A conservation covenant, permanently protecting the rainforest in perpetuity, was signed today – Thursday 10 October – by Rowallan Alton Māori Incorporation. Representatives included Chair Harold Thomas and DOC Director-General Lou Sanson.
“The Māori owners could have logged the rainforest but instead negotiated a conservation covenant with the Nature Heritage Fund,” says Lou Sanson.
“I’m delighted to be signing this conservation covenant with Harold and the other Incorporation representatives, ensuring this rainforest is protected for future generations.”
“We’re protecting this rainforest in perpetuity so our mokopuna can enjoy the sounds of tūī, kākā, kiwi and other taonga species living in this ngahere,” says Harold Thomas.
“The rainforest also soaks up carbon dioxide, released into the atmosphere, helping mitigate the effect of climate change.”
“This enables the Incorporation to claim carbon credits through a project run by Ekos, an international non-profit enterprise we’ve partnered with.”
The forest hugs the shore at Te Waewae Bay on Te Ara a Kiwa/Foveaux Strait, 18 km west of Tuatapere.
“This forest is a jewel worth protecting. It has a silver beech canopy, intermixed with miro and tōtara and sits right next to the 235 hectare Waikoau Forest Conservation Area,” says Lou Sanson.
The first two kilometres of the 61 km Hump Ridge Track pass through the forest, which is near Fiordland National Park.
The Hump Ridge Track will become New Zealand’s next Great Walk, once a $5 million upgrade is completed.
DOC is working with the Tuatapere Hump Ridge Trust to bring the track up to Great Walk standard and change it from a two-night walk to a three-night experience. It’s planned to open the new Great Walk in late 2022.
South Island Landless Natives Act 1906
In 1906, 4000 Māori were identified as having insufficient land to support themselves after land purchase agreements in the previous century. They were given around 57,000 hectares of land, scattered throughout the South Island, under the South Island Landless Natives Act 1906.
Today, descendants of those Māori own about 5000 hectares of land with native forest of high conservation value.
Nature Heritage Fund
The Nature Heritage Fund (NHF) is funded to negotiate conservation covenants with Māori owners of native forest with high conservation values.
The conservation covenant signed by the Rowallan Alton Incorporation and DOC protects 741 hectares of native rainforest of high conservation value.
The NHF has provided the Rowallan Alton Incorporation with $555,643 to survey and fence the forest. A further $556,606 will be provided as a consideration payment.
The NHF has protected more than 350,000 hectares of indigenous ecosystems since it was established in 1990.
The fund is administered by an independent committee appointed by the Minister of Conservation under section 56 of the Conservation Act 1987. It is serviced by DOC and receives an annual allocation of funds from the Government.