Forest Collapse Crisis Revealed in Drone Footage

Drone footage released today by Forest & Bird shows widespread native forest collapse across Northland due to rampant possum numbers.

The online videos show native forest reserves in Russell, Otangaroa and north Whangaroa, revealing the bleached skeletons of iconic species including tōtara, northern rātā, pūriri and pōhutukawa.

Northland Conservation Advocate for Forest & Bird, Dean Baigent-Mercer says there is only a small window of opportunity to bring these important forests back to life.

"The Northland forest collapse is an important example of what is happening in forests around the country that have missed out on sustained pest control over the last few decades. The government and regional councils need to significantly increase the amount of native forest that receive regular pest control, and Northland would be a good place to start." says Baigent-Mercer.

Forest and Bird is calling for an increase in funding for pest control for the Department of Conservation, to bring 116,000 hectares of Northland’s significant native forests back to life over the next ten years.

“There are many local groups doing great pest control projects across the north. Multi-species pest control in Waipoua, Mataraua and Waima have held the line and saved those forests from collapse for the time being.

“But we need to step it up because native forests that were lush and full of life 40 years ago are now becoming ghost forests,” said Baigent-Mercer.

“The collapse is caused by thousands of possums relentlessly consuming the forest canopy. The destruction happens while we sleep, night after night, year after year, most of the time going unnoticed - until it’s too late.”

It’s not only the native trees under attack say conservationists. Native birds, bats, bugs and lizards are under constant attack from possums, rats, stoats, ferrets, weasels and feral cats.

Mita Harris, Chairperson of the Northland Conservation Board agrees. “It’s really shocking to see the bush collapse in just 10 years in some places”.

“Hapū need to take stock of how sick our forests are. Our challenge is to look at these issues again with new eyes. This means understanding the crisis that our native forests are in and looking at the pros and cons of all the tools. A lot has changed in the past twenty years. As the native forests of Taitokerau have fallen apart, the technologies for killing pests have improved a lot.”

“The great northern native forests are internationally significant and giving them the lifelines they deserve is long overdue. Native forests want to live. They want to explode with life. Their capacity to recover is incredible when all the pests are removed. This, however, will take commitment and action from Government, hapū, funders and the community”.

To see the footage go to: forestandbird.org.nz/stopforestcollapse