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Nature Reserves Gifted By Locals Celebrated

Bushy Park Tarapuruhi in Whanganui, Ngaheretuku in South Auckland, Atawhai Whenua on Waiheke Island and tāiko Westland petrel breeding grounds on the West Coast are the latest nature sanctuaries to feature in 26 Forest & Bird Centennial.

This creative conservation project has seen 26 New Zealand writers and artists visit 13 of Forest & Bird’s 128 local branch projects to meet the volunteers and some of the other locals – the native birds, lizards, and plant life of the region. Each pair had to create an original artwork, a 100-word centena poem, and 260-word essay inspired by the people they met and the nature they encountered.

Three local families generously gifted Ngaheretuku, Tarapuruhi Bushy Park, and Atwahwai Whenua to Forest & Bird to be looked after in perpetuity, while a mining company donated the land where the tāiko breed. Local conservation volunteers have helped look after these places for decades, an incredible gift of time to nature in their local community.

Ngaheretuku Reserve in South Auckland is Forest & Bird’s oldest nature sanctuary, donated in 1951 by Hugh Alexander, a local farmer. It is an example of the forest that once grew in South Auckland which is now almost entirely cleared. It contains significant stands of regenerating kauri and kahikatea, and has one of the largest kahikatea trees in the Auckland region. The South Auckland branch has been maintaining the reserve, which is subject to littering by locals, for more than 70 years.

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Bushy Park Tarapuruhi was donated by another local farmer and conservationist Frank Moore in 1962. Thanks to the care of hundreds of local volunteers over several generations, species like kiwi, tīeke and korimako bellbirds now flourish in the rare lowland forest which is protected by a predator-proof fence.

Atawhai Whenua is a wetland reserve close to the main ferry terminal, which was restored from overgrazed farmland donated by the Johnstone family in 1993. More than 40,000 trees have since been planted by local Forest & Bird volunteers, and kākā - once locally extinct - have returned to the area.

The Westland petrel is an endemic species of oceanic seabird which breeds only to the west of the Paparoa Range on the South Island’s West Coast, just south of Punakaiki. In 1990, mining company Fletcher Titanium gifted the 28ha forest block to Forest & Bird to manage as a reserve for the rare tāiko, which have likely been breeding in the area for at least 150,000 years. The birds are now threatened by a proposal to mine minerals just south of its breeding colony.

None of these places would exist today without the foresight of the people who donated the land to Forest & Bird, knowing it would be looked after in perpetuity by the conservation-charity, which turned 100 this year, and its volunteers.

“The 26 Forest & Bird Centennial project is an opportunity to honour the mahi of our hardworking volunteers while inspiring more people to apply their passion and skills to protecting te taiao,” said Forest & Bird’s Chief Executive Nicola Toki.

“The Forest & Bird whānau is thrilled to have welcomed the 26 NZ writers and artists to our projects so they could see the important work conservation volunteers are doing around the country.

“Each creative pair has captured the beauty, fragility, and ecological importance of these conservation efforts at-place.

“The writers and artists have dedicated a huge amount of time, creativity, and aroha to this project and the results are spectacular.”

26 Forest & Bird Centennial was launched on September 8 and runs for six months. The first five projects showcased Forest & Bird’s Lenz Reserve in the Catlins; Arethusa in the Far North; Rangitīkei Reserves, Manawatū-Whanganui; Walter Scott Reserve, Pirongia, Waikato; and Pāuatahanui Wildlife Reserve, Greater Wellington. These can be viewed here. The remaining four projects will be published next February.

The project is being run in partnership with 26, a global not-for-profit writers’ collective that establishes projects around the world, most recently focusing on environmental and climate issues (

Writer-editors Jane Berney, Paul White, and Jayne Workman, from the Aotearoa chapter of 26, have been leading the creative side of the project.

“It was a privilege to visit these nature sanctuaries, meet Forest & Bird’s branch volunteers and staff, hear about the conservation challenges they face, and see the difference they are making for native flora and fauna,” said Jane Berney.

Forest & Bird was launched by another passionate volunteer, Captain Ernest ‘Val’ Sanderson, on 28 March 1923 ­in Te Whangaui-a-Tara Wellington. It became the first of Aotearoa New Zealand’s modern-day conservation charities and Sanderson led the organisation for 20 years until his death in 1945.

In that time, Sanderson employed artists, cartoonists, writers and journalists to spread the word about vanishing nature. He published artworks, books, and magazines to educate and inspire adults and children about te taio.

Artworks, poems, essays, and photos for the four latest nature sanctuaries are available here. The writers and artists are based in Auckland, Christchurch, Whanganui, Palmerston North

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