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New Protection for Southland SILNA Forest

New Protection for Southland SILNA Forest

A slice of Southland native forest is to be set aside as a new reserve, the first negotiated under the Government's new SILNA conservation proposals, Conservation Minister Chris Carter announced today.

The new reserve spans 125 hectares bordering the Wairaurahiri River in the remote scenic West Rowallan area of Southland.

"It forms part of an extensive lowland forest in the Waitutu area that supports one of the largest remaining populations of kaka in mainland New Zealand, as well as other threatened species such as the kereru and the yellow-crowned kakariki," Mr Carter said.

The land is a section of about 57,000 hectares given to 4000 named Maori identified as having insufficient land to support themselves in the South Island Landless Natives Act 1906.

Descendents of those Maori still own the land, much of which is native forest. About 5000 ha of it is of considerable conservation value. Last year the Government set aside $16.1m over seven years for the Nature Heritage Fund to use to negotiate conservation settlements over some of the SILNA land.

"The West Rowallan reserve we are announcing today is the first settlement under this initiative," Mr Carter said.

"Through embarking on a conservation covenant the owners of the reserve have ensured that the forest will be protected in perpetuity and that its Maori identity will be preserved.

“It is the start of what I hope will be steady progress in the protection of some remarkable native forests owned by the descendants of SILNA recipients. There are a number of other settlements currently being negotiated by the Nature Heritage Fund," Mr Carter said.

Rex Austin, chair of the West Rowallan block's trustees, said: " It would be a tragedy if this remote and beautiful area had to face the axe."

The West Rowallan block lies adjacent to the Waitutu Forest Conservation Area. Substantial parts of it are forested in silver beech, rimu, miro, and Hall's totara. Those forests support numerous native birds such as the kereru, kaka, kakariki, robin, long-tailed cuckoo, tui and bellbird. The surrounding Waitutu Forest is also regarded as an important area for indigenous land snails.

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