A story of regeneration
Waingake Bush, in the upper Te Arai catchment, is largely unknown because it is out of the way, and is out of bounds.
Owned by Gisborne District Council, Waingake Bush comprises an 1100 hectare podocarp-tawa-beech forest that is the catchment area for the Gisborne city water supply. Because this is the city's water catchment area people are excluded from walking in the bush, but there is a walking track — the QEII Track, along the southern ridge boundary.
At the moment, even this track is pretty much inaccessible because the Waingake Road has sustained some storm damage, and log harvesting is in progress on both the Waingake and Wharerata sides of the ridge track. As a safety measure there are locked gates on both Waingake and Tarewa Roads.
The tramping club was able to walk along the Waingake Bush QEII Track in November because Amy England, Gisborne District Council's project manager for the Waingake Transformation Project, offered to accompany our group.
She unlocked the gate on Waingake Road and gave the drivers in our group a safety briefing regarding the road condition. Part of her advice was that the road was dry and very dusty.
Waingake Bush has very significant biodiversity value and has been a QEII National Trust Conservation Covenant since 1987. In 2018, the council agreed to a five-year animal control and monitoring programme. Using a combination of trapping and bait stations, the council aims to control and reduce target animal pest numbers in the reserve.
As we were walking along the ridgeline, we were following part of the perimeter network of traps and bait stations in place around the edge of the reserve. These are cleared and reset fortnightly, and the kill rate of the possum traps was impressive! There was also a bait laying operation within the bush block completed in 2020. This work has been further supported by the wider Waingake area goat control operations in 2020-2021.
From the QEII track, looking west and south, there are great views over Waingake Bush, Wharerata Forests, Pamoa Forest, and the Mangapoike water catchment dams.
Pamoa Forest is in the process of being harvested, and as this happens most of the area is being transformed into a permanent native forest through a partnership between Gisborne District Council and Maraetaha Incorporated. This initiative is supported by Tāmanuhiri Tutu Poroporo Trust who represent Ngai Tāmanuhiri Iwi.
With a diverse native bush seed source adjacent, there has been considerable regeneration of native bush below the mature pine forest canopy at Pamoa. Careful harvesting methods, and in some instances a decision to not harvest the pine trees but instead drill poison into their trunks so they will gradually die, is allowing native bush to recover relatively quickly following harvesting of the pines.
Te Rimuomaru Trig is about halfway along the Waingake QEII ridge track. This was the first land seen from the masthead of the Endeavour in October 1769 as it approached Turanganui-a-Kiwa/Poverty Bay. Eleven-year-old Nicholas Young spotted this forested rounded knob and the sighting earned Nicholas his name on Young Nicks Head, Te Kuri a Paoa, as well as a reward of rum.
In our walking group was Sean Andrews who works for Juken New Zealand Ltd. From Te Rimuomaru trig he pointed out a memorial established by JNL to the founder of JNL's parent company WoodOne, Toshio Nakamoto. The memorial is in a beautiful spot overlooking Wharerata Forest which JNL planted — a spot which was a favourite place for Toshio to visit.
We had lunch at the southeastern edge of the bush where the views are spectacular over Turanganui-a-Kiwa/Poverty Bay, and as far as Hikurangi, Arowhana and the Raukumara range, although the day was very hazy.
Then, we retraced our steps along the QEII Track in the afternoon as the day became quite hot. We appreciated the shade provided by the regenerating tall native forest especially because the return walk involved more climbing!
The regenerating bush along the ridge is diverse and interesting. Many trees were in full flower or with buds about to open – hekatara, makomako, mahoe, kohuhu, kamahi, and putaputaweta were just a few of these. One species of interest is Cordyline banksia, ti ngahere or ti rakau, which was flowering profusely. This is similar to the more familiar cabbage tree, ti kouka, but the tree is less branched, and the leaves are longer, broader, and softer. The flower spike is larger than the flower of ti kouka and is mildly scented.
The tramping club would one day like to see a simple network of tracks within Waingake QEII bush so that mana whenua, local residents, and visitors can enjoy and appreciate this beautiful forest by walking through it.