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New Zealand Kauri

Introduction

The Kauri is an unusual and very long lived tree, the larger ones can be 2000 years old. Kauri seedlings need plenty of light so they usually start life amid manuka scrubland in forest clearings formed by windfall or fire. Adolescent trees form a tapering trunk and narrow conical crown. The tall adolescent Kauri have narrow pole trunks, but as they mature the trunk thickens and the lower branches are all shed giving the very clean straight trunk of the adult tree which made their wood so desirable. The bark is shed in plate sized scales giving a distinctive appearance to the trunk and helps to shop epiphytes from establishing a hold. As they grow older the trunk progressively swells into a vast cylinder whilst the crown becomes thin. Despite the clean trunks the crowns are filled with other plants - one can find as many as 30 different species of epiphytes on a single large Kauri. The largest Kauri such as Tane Mahuta (the Father of Forest) and Te Matua Ngahere have girths of about 15 meters.

The other unusual feature of the Kauri is the gum they produce in large quantities. This was much sort after for high grade varnishes, linoleum and French polish and led to a big industry in gum digging for the old buried lumps of gum and later in bleeding the trees.

Kauri Dieback (Phytophthora Taxon Agathis) - Update February 2016

Since the various visits covered below the whole of New Zealand Kauri has become threatened by a disease kn0wn as Kauri Dieback. This was brought home vividly in the Waipoua, Warawara and Puketi forests which we visited in 2015 and together contain about three quarters of New Zealand's remaining mature kauri trees. The Waipoua forest holds the largest remaining stands of these trees. It contains Te Matua Ngahere, a notable kauri tree that is the largest in New Zealand by girth and the second largest by volume, and is estimated to be from 2,000 to 3,000 years old as well as many of the most famous trees such as Tane Mahuta. There seems to be very little comprehensive documentation of kauri dieback which both gives even a half way satisfactory scientific description of Phytophthora yet can be understood by a layman - and unusually that includes Wikipedia. I have therefore tried to pull some of the material together - there are simplifications and it lacks references but it is a starting point. Wikipedia has a link to a blank page on PTA itself and I may use some of the following as a catalyst to get a true expert to put something in place!

Kauri dieback is the deadly kauri disease caused by a specific species of Phytophthora, a fungus-like disease which was first formally identified in 2008 although kauri die back spores were first found over 40 years ago on Great Barrier Island where it was misidentified as Phytophthora Hevae. It's full name is Phytophthora Taxon Agathis (PTA). Kauri dieback is currently believed to be specific to New Zealand kauri and can kill trees of all ages. The microscopic spores in the soil infect kauri roots and damage the tissues that carry nutrients within the tree. Infected trees show a range of symptoms including yellowing of foliage, loss of leaves, canopy thinning, canopy dieback, dead branches and lesions that bleed gum at the base of the trunk. Nearly all infected kauri die. In the past 10 years, kauri dieback has killed thousands of kauri in New Zealand. In the lab it has been shown to kill saplings in as little as three weeks. It's origin and time of arrival in New Zealand is still unknown, but the limited evidence suggests it was introduced from overseas. This assumption is largely based on the narrow genetic variation found in the disease population (indicating a relatively recent introduction that hasn't had time to evolve variation) and the preference for high soil temperatures which suggests a more tropical origin.

Kauri dieback has been found in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, on private land throughout the Auckland region, in the forest plantations of Omahuta, Glenbervie and Russell in Northland, Department of Conservation reserves at Okura, Albany, Pakiri, Great Barrier, Trounson Kauri Park and Waipoua Forest in Northland close to Tane Mahuta, and most recently in bush in the Coromandel Peninsula. It was also present in some nurseries providing kauri seedlings.

There is no known treatment at this time although experiments are under way on control mechanisms which may delay damage to some iconic trees whilst a cure is sought. Phosphite salts are, for example, used as a biodegradable treatment for a number of Phytophthorata species to protect plants against dieback. It is usually applied as potassium phosphite, derived from phosphorous acid neutralized with potassium hydroxide. Calcium and magnesium phosphite may also be used. Phosphite works by boosting the plant's own natural defences and thereby allowing susceptible plants to survive within dieback infested sites. It is important to note that there is no treatment that will eradicate phytophthora dieback, including phosphite. However, an integrated approach can help control the spread and impact of the disease.

The major mechanism for spread is believed to be transport of contaminated soil and various cleaning stations have been set up for cleaning footware on entering and leaving areas of containing kauri but few people seem to take them seriously. Boardwalks have always been built to reduce damage to shallow kauri roots and have been installed in areas at risk although there seems to be no attempt to prevent incoming contamination reaching the ground from the boardwalk. PTA has also been shown to travel in NZ watercourses as well as waterfilms within the soil. We were also told by a "Kauri Ambassador" at Tane Mahuta that hunters are being deployed to kill all wildlife which could transfer contaminated soil - this seems to be in addition to the usual programs of control through poisons.

The name Phytophthora is derived from Greek and literally means “plant destroyer". It is a genus of plant-damaging Oomycetes, often known as "water molds" first studied in 1875 and now there are over 100 species known, the vast majority of which are active plant pathogens. Phytophthora species are, in fact, among the most destructive pathogens of agricultural crops and forests in the world. Phytophthora infestans was, for example, the infective agent of the potato blight that caused the Great Irish Famine (1845–1849), and still remains the most destructive pathogen of crops such as tomato and potato. Many Phytophthora are however relatively host-specific parasites. In general, plant diseases caused by this genus are difficult or impossible to control chemically, thus the growth of resistant cultivars is the main management strategy. Phytophthora diseases hit plants from trees to cucumbers and strawberries.

Phytophthora is sometimes referred to as a fungus-like organism, but it is classified under a different kingdom altogether: Chromalveolata. This is a good example of convergent evolution: Phytophthora is very similar to true fungi yet its evolutionary history is quite distinct. In contrast to fungi, chromalveolatas are more closely related to plants than animals. Their Chromosomes are quite different. Phytophthora is a genus of microorganisms which includes water molds, diatoms and brown algae. They resemble fungi because they grow by means of fine filaments, called hyphae, and produce spores but unlike true fungi, their cell walls contain cellulose instead of chitin, their hyphae lack cross-walls, and different phases, dominate their life cycle. Phytophthora species may reproduce sexually or asexually. Phytophthora Taxon Agusta (PTA), importantly, is one of the species that produces swimming spores, called zoospores, during one phase of its life cycle, a vestige of its evolutionary origins in water. The life cycle of PTA is complex and some phases (oospores in particular) are extremely resistant and can survive for four or more years in the soil whilst the the zoospores can swim through waterlogged soil to the kauri roots. The oospores and zoospores are microscopic (under 10 microns) and can not be seen by the naked eye. A summary of the life cycle is

  1. Oospores (resting and very resistant spores) are introduced into an area of kauri.
  2. Oospores germinate to form sporangia, the structure which produces zoospores
  3. These zoospores are released from the sporangia during and immediately after heavy rain
  4. The zoospores (mobile spores) swim through soil-water to kauri roots, attach to the root surface, germinate to produce mycelia which infects the kauri root
  5. The organism grows through the root system to affect the tissues at the base of the trunk that transport nutrients and water to canopy.
  6. More sporangia are formed from areas of infected root which release more zoospores during and after heavy rain
  7. Oospores form within infected tree tissue and are release into the soil as tissue decays.
  8. These oospores are transported in soil to a new area, predominantly by humans and animals, to start the cycle in a new location.

Some additional sources of information are:

http://www.kauridieback.co.nz/kauri-dieback/how-does-it-spread

Travels in 1999

Great Barrier Island

Our first real look into Kauri logging and visit to a Kauri logging dam was on Great Barrier Island when we were sailing. We had moored off Bush's Beach which was on a spur from the many DOC walking tracks on Great Barrier and comes complete with picnic table, barbecues and long drop. We decided to stay the following day and do the walk up to one of the old Kauri Logging Dams high up in the valley. What the cruising guide said was an hour walk took 5 hours, part of it repeated as a path we were using turned out to be closed and unusually DOC had posted no warnings that we could find. It was a great walk but rough at times and walking boots would have been an advantage although walking sandals had their advantages when it came to the many streams to ford. DOC have contractors preserving the dam so one could not climb round it but it is still an awesome sight and well worth the long climb.

The Kauri forrests were usually well inland and there was no easy way to get the logs to the sea or other routes to saw mills. The logs were therefore dragged to a convenient stream bed with steep sides and a Kauri Dam was constructed of wood with a "trapdoor" near the bottom large enough for the logs to pass through. The logs were typically a couple of metres diameter and 4-5 metres long so the door was considerable size and the dam was tens of metres high. I have marked onto the first Kauri Dam photograph the original line of the top of the dam and outlined the trapdoor. Also note how the dam is braced into solid rock to take the tremendous loads. The trapdoor was constructed so that when the dam was full, and that could take a year, it could be tripped and the water released. The logs floating above the dam were sucked down through the hole and swept down to the sea, sixteen miles away in the case of this one on Great Barrier Island. The second picture shows the details of the trapdoor and how the pieces of wood were all secured so that they could be reused.

Northland - Matakohe - Kauri Museum and Settlers Museum

Once we were back from Great Barrier Island we decided to head North from Auckland for Kauri country. The first real stop in Kauri country was at the Kauri Museum and Settlers Museum at Matakohe, 140 kms North of Auckland. The Museum is very interesting and has a lot of displays and old pictures of Kauri logging and Gum digging, Kauri furniture, logging equipment and even a full size reconstruction of a saw mill using original equipment. It is however, like many places in Northland, on the tourist routes and there were several coach parties there. Even so we spent a couple of hours although it was a repeat visit and even then we had not looked at all the old pictures.

Northland - Dargaville

It was raining for a change and we decided to stop at Dargaville but everywhere was booked up - we eventually discovered there was one of the biggest A&P shows in the country being held a few kilometres away. We therefore, for the first time this year, rang ahead and booked a cabin at the Kauri Coast Holiday Park, one of the Top 10 chain, sited on the edge of the Trounson Kauri Park. The cabin was good and had cooking, a fridge and running water for the $40 and in the end we stayed a second night as the forecast was still terrible.

Northland - Trounson Kauri Park

The next we went into the Kauri Forests. First was the Trounson Kauri Park which is the first of the DOC "Mainland Islands" which seek to undo some of the damage done to the native flora and fauna by creating a secure environment by intensive management, in particular the reduction of the impact of pests. Trounson was chosen to be the first of such experiments as it is literally a forest island surrounded by a sea of farmland, it is isolated from other forest patches and is the home to a number of endangered species such as the North Island Brown Kiwi, Kukupa (NZ pigeon) pekepaka (bats) and Kauri snails. They have night-time walks from the Holiday Park to see the Kiwi and other fauna but unfortunately the were rained off the two nights we were in the area. We had an excellent walk round the Trounson Park during the day - it is not on the tourist route and it was very peaceful and we both decided it was the best area of Kauri we have seen. We also saw on of the Kukupa close enough to capture on video. There is a small DOC camp site at the edge of the park and we intend to return there at some point although the Holiday park with its better facilities, river and swimming pools will also be tempting.

Northland - Waipoua Kauri forest

We then went on into the Waipoua Kauri forest where one can again go on walks and see the two largest remaining Kauri. They are worth seeing but there is none of the peace of the Trounson forest as they are one the tourist circuit.

Northland - Dargaville - Maritime Museum

After a day in the forests we headed back towards the East coast and eventually the Bay of Islands. We stopped to look at the Kai Iwi lakes and Peter had a swim during one of the brief dry spells in the day. We also a look at the Maritime Museum at Dargaville which gave a further insight into the Kauri trade and the associated harbours in the area.

Travels in 2001

The Waitakeri Ranges

There are still good Reserves close to Auckland which contain Kauri and we had a walk on the Sunday afternoon to the Cascades within the Waitakeri ranges. We walked through a stand of magnificent old Kauri - we didn't realise that they still existed so close to civilisation after the logging a the turn of the century which stripped vast tracts of land. The falls were not as impressive as many but there was a large swimming hole at the bottom which Kev felt obliged to fling himself into so I had to follow - fortunately I had the forethought to bring trunks just in case. Once in the water you can swim in close to the cascade and look up to see the main falls. Swimming holes are always CCccooolld and this was no exception but at least there was no wind to chill one - as soon as I was out and half dry Pauline said she had worked up to a view with the camera and I had to go back in again.

The weather looked so bad we abandoned plans to go back down the East Coast from Auckland and turned North and West to the Kauri forests. Walks in native bush and forests are arguably at their best with the clouds hanging low and the trees glistening with moisture.

Northland - Waipoua Forest

Some of the largest remaining Kauri can be found in the Waipoua Forest area on the West side of Northland - North of Dargaville. The largest Kauri left such as Tane Mahuta and Te Matua Ngahere have girths of about 15 meters but some were much larger. We saw both of these which are both in the Waipoua Forest Park, Tane Mahuta (the God of the Forest) is so close to roads that it is a big tourist trap with many coaches stopping but even so it is a magnificent site which even the presence of large numbers of other people can not detract from. The next largest is nearby and involves a 15 minute walk so few people sadly make the trip, especially when the mist hangs low - they know not what they miss in not visiting Te Matua Ngahere (Father of the Forest).

Northland - Trounson Park

There is a small but good DOC camp site in the Trounson Park which is more comprehensively equipped than most but by the time we were close to it the pleasant light rain had turned to a deluge so we travelled a bit further to a yet another Top Ten camp site, The Kauri Coast Holiday Park, which we had stayed at before. We were fortunate enough to pick up one of their simple cabins at under $30. It is a delightful site out in the bush with a river curling round the bottom and a huge deep swimming hole in the bend. Pete, of course, had to fling himself in.

We spent some time talking to another couple, mixed French and English who were doing much the same as us but only using a tent. They went on a bush walk with the camp owner, setting at dusk, round the Trounson Kauri Park which they reported was excellent - they saw Glow-worms, Weta and Crayfish to name a few things. They heard Kiwi but unfortunately did not get to see them. We spoke to the organiser in the morning and he said the trips had seen Kiwi 4 times in the last month. Last year they were seeing them ever other trip. We regret not going and but will try it if or when we return.

We then went into the Trounson Kauri Park which is the first of the DOC "Mainland Islands" which seek to undo some of the damage done to the native flora and fauna by creating a secure environment by intensive management, in particular the reduction of the impact of pests. Trounson was chosen to be the first of such experiments as it is literally a forest island surrounded by a sea of farmland, it is isolated from other forest patches and is the home to a number of endangered species such as the North Island Brown Kiwi, Kukupa (NZ pigeon) Pekepaka (bats) and Kauri snails. We had an excellent walk round the Trounson Park - it is not on the tourist route and it was very peaceful. We both decided it was the best area of Kauri we have seen and arguably one of the best medium length bush walks we have been on - the competitors are those in Goblin forests round Egmont. DOC have set up a new information area and there is a lot of information indicating how successful the concept of a Mainland Island has been with full and alarming information on the number of pest caught or poisoned. The number of Kiwi reaching a "safe" size of a kilo rose from 5% to 30% after the first two years of poisoning rodents and Possums and has now climbed to 70% since they have been eliminating stoats and cats by trapping. Feral cats do untold damage to bird life and they are trapping several dozen every year. Dogs are perhaps worse and one single dog killed nearly 200 Kiwi in a six week period in the past.

We looked at the small DOC camp site at the edge of the park and we intend to return there at some point although the Top Ten with its better facilities, river and swimming hole will remain tempting.

Dargaville - Maritime Museum

We went into the Maritime Museum at Dargaville which is worth a visit if you are nearby and have spare time. Amongst other things it has some of the remains of the Rainbow Warrior - the Greenpeace boat blown up in Auckland by French agents with some lose of life. They were subsequently prosecuted and relations with France have never fully recovered.

Matakohe - Kauri Museum and Settlers Museum

The next stop was to be the Kauri Museum and Settlers Museum at Matakohe. By now the day seemed to have disappeared so we overshot to look at the nearby Matakohe Camp Site (300m down the road) and found they had a tourist flat with a magnificent view down to the river free. We decided to stay and then rushed down to the Museum. The Museum is very interesting and has a lot of displays and old pictures of Kauri logging and Gum digging, Kauri furniture, logging equipment and even a full size reconstruction of a saw mill using original equipment. It is however, like many places in Northland, on the tourist routes although it was latter in the day and there were no coach parties there. Even so we spent a couple of hours although it was a repeat visit and even then we had not looked at all we wanted to. Like many places in New Zealand they were happy to mark up our tickets to let us in the following day seeing we were staying nearby.

The Matakohe Camp Site turned out to be very good with some of the best equipment in their facilities we have seen. We spent some time in the morning talking to the owner and found that despite having only started it they had already got a **** Qualmark rating and hoped to get ***** next time round. If one is going to the museum it a good idea to stay there and do the museum justice. A typical example of the difference between NZ and the UK occurred in the morning - as we were talking it came out that we had a number of memberships on which they will give discounts, AA Top Ten etc (it is much better to offer the discounts than join the chains which are prohibitive expensive for a small quality site and would force them to raise prices) - they insisted on refunding the $6 on the spot.

We ended up spending another couple of hours in the museum in the morning, mostly looking at the various pieces of logging equipment from saws to gigantic steam winches and at the exhibits on Kauri Gum. We had not realised that the export of Kauri Gum for Varnish and Linoleum manufacture was more important in income to Auckland and Northwards than even Gold, Lamb or Kauri for a 50 year period. Over 450,000 tons were extracted in that time.

We found the museum has an excellent bookstore associated and bought several books - they are still largely a volunteer trust which is worthy of support and next time we may join the society of friends which gives unlimited entry and 4 newsletters for only $9 a year whilst a single entry is $7 on which we got a 10% discount because we have a Top Ten Card. It is always worth asking for discounts and they bend over to find an excuse in most places.

Two of the books covering Pictures from the Past are by Bruce Hayward - "Kauri Timber Days" (with John Diamond) and "Kauri Gum and Gumdiggers" are probably only available at the Museum as the are published by The Bush Press. The third is a superb book on The Trees in New Zealand "The Native Trees of New Zealand by J T Salmon published by Reed ISBN 07900 0104 7" which is incredibly detailed and with many illustration, it is far to heavy to take home. We nowhave a page with our full New Zealand Reference Book List

Travels in 2002

Northland - Hokianga harbour, Waipoua Forest Park and Trounson Kauri Park

We continued South using back roads where possible via Horeke and Taheke and down the edge of the Hokianga harbour. We stopped at a high viewpoint to look down on the bar at the harbour entry, which brought many ships to grief in the old days when there were busy ports for the Kauri trade. It was then south towards Dargaville and Kauri Country. We stopped for a short walk to look at one of the largest living Kauri "Tane Mahuta" - on route.

We stayed overnight at the Kauri Coast Top Ten Holiday Park overnight . They run trips most nights into the Trounson Kauri Park giving one of the few opportunities to see kiwis in the wild. The chances are only about 50:50 but we must go on one of them some time. We were woken early in the morning when a new block of cabins was delivered on a vast lorry complete with integral crane. We wondered why we had been asked to park away from our cabin!

After the early awakening we left for a walk round the Trounson Kauri Park which has some of the best remaining stands of Kauri left in New Zealand and has been turned into a Mainland Island to protect endangered wildlife. The forest is surrounded by farmland and has been cleared of almost all Possums, stoats, rodents and feral animals by an aggressive program of poisoning and trapping with great success and Kiwi and other endangered species are now thriving. (Covered above)

This is perhaps the point to mention 1080, a very controversial poison which we have had our ear bent on by several people. The views are so extremae and polarised that we have done a little background research to allow us to come to an unbiased view. We mention it here bcaue 1080 has played an important part in clearing Trounson of some of the imported pests. It seems, when correctly used, to be a silver bullet, which can take out most mammals, none of which are native in any case, without significant danger to birds or other native wildlife. It is however highly toxic to dogs, which are banned from all reserves in any case. It is much less dangerous to humans, even children, and quickly biodegrades in water supplies, if it ever reaches them. The current oficial belief is that it is non cumulative and sub fatal doses quickly clear from a mammals system without any lasting damage.

The main objections seem to come from hunters (most of whom have dogs) and especially when it is used by aerial drops into remote areas where it kills the deer which they want to hunt. Deer also count as vermin and cause enormous damage themselves and are ruthlessly culled in most areas. The damage and health risks from Possums is even greater and needs drastic and urgent action. It is, after all, a poison occurring in plants in countries such as South Africa at quite high concentrations, more than that used in the bait used in aerial drops in New Zealand and without obvious risk through water supplies etc. The DOC web site lays out some of the facts. We have also seen some of the earlier reports on trials on Rangitoto Island where, for example, the increase in honey production and bird life was spectacular and immediate due to increase in vegetation on the elimination of Possums. In our view it seems possible there has been an over reaction to the risks of 1080 but welcome the additional studies being done.

Dargaville - Maritime and Settlers Museum

From Trounson we proceeded to Dargaville where we visited the excellent Maritime and Settlers Museum up on the hillside.It has been extended and now has some very good new exhibits on Kauri Gum digging as well as the previous maritime and other displays. Well worth a visit.


Matakohe - Kauri Museum and Settlers Museum

We then continued to the other "Must Visit Museum" in Northland - the Kauri Museum at Matakohe. This has also been steadily extended over the years and it is now almost impossible to do it justice in a single visit. It has a huge number of displays including a reconstruction of a steam sawmill with original equipment moving in slow motion and a wing with a reconstructed 1900s "quality" home largely in Kauri. There are also magnificent exhibits of furniture in Kauri and other native woods as well as Kauri logging and gum digging exhibits with lots of equipment on display. It is rounded off by a huge collection of old photographs.

We looked at an exhibit covering some of the writers and pioneers in Kauri, which included A H Reed who started the Reed publishing empire after an early career in Kauri. After he retired at 60, he spent much of his time writing and walking the country. He was doing long walks from end to end of New Zealand in his 80s and wrote more than 70 books many on his travels. We are adding his books to our reading list of classic books and hope to find one his covering his early involvement with Kauri.

We subsequently found a copy of his last book written when 98 - "The Happy Wanderer". It is an excellent book, which recaptures many of the highlights otherwise buried in his numerous travel books, which were already out of print when he wrote it in 1974. He significantly revised all the original text and wrote a comprehensive introduction as well as other new sections. It shows his intellect had not been dulled even at such a grand age. His last major walk covered in the book was carried out 10 years earlier at the age of 89 and covered 650 miles. We can only hope for a fraction of his stamina, intellect and life span.

Travels in 2003

Northland - Waipoua Forest Park and Trounson Kauri Park

The weather looked mixed so we settled on going up the West (Kauri) coast and stayed overnight at the Kauri Coast Top Ten about 30 kms North of Dargaville on the edge of the Trounson Kauri Park. It, and the area, are favourites and have been covered before. Last year they were installing some new cabins with full facilities and we were tempted and when we found the campsite was full with a school trip we settled for a cabin with a kitchen as the communal kitchens were full of teachers cooking huge numbers of meals by 1600 and in the morning thy were already inaccessible at 0630 so we made a good decision. We ended up with the Red Devil and a barbecue on the cabin deck. They do periodic night walks through the park to see Kiwis and other wildlife but we, once more, missed out through bad timing. Overall one of the best of the modern commercial campsites we know with very friendly owners, Herb and Heather.

In the morning we did a walk through the Trounson Kauri Forest, a short walk of under an hour but tone taking one past a number of magnificent large Kauri. It is a very well made up path , much on boardwalks to protect the vulnerable Kauri roots and very well supplied with explanatory boards. Trounson was one of the first mainland islands with complex programs of trapping and chemical warfare to eradicate pests which damage the Kiwi and other natural bird life. Possums are a main target along with stouts and feral cats. Dogs can be very destructive and one dog killed half of the radio tagged Kiwis in a six week period before it was caught.

From there we headed North through the forests and the onto Hokianga harbour which we crossed by ferry before continuing to try a new camp site at the end of ninety mile beach. It was one of the classic older style camps with lots of facilities but fairly deserted - it did not seem to be on the campervan circuit. We found a nice quite and sheltered corner and set up the tent and the red devil. They claimed they had little of the hard rain which had plagued us and we could believe it, the ground was very dry and almost a dust bowl in some places.

Travels in 2004

Hokianga Harbour - some history of where the Kauri trade started

We started the day at the Hokianga Historical Society's Omapere Museum that has an impressive collection of pictures, binders and documents about the area. Long talk with one of the volunteers on wide ranging topics, not all concerned with the museum. After an hour looking round and talking we felt obliged to move on and spent a couple of hours fishing off the long wharf at Omapere. We caught some fresh bait with a tiny sabiki (set of hooks with tiny lures on each hook) and fed most of it back with little result other than a couple of undersized snapper, even so it was a relaxing way of spending part of a lovely morning and there was a continuous stream of interested and interesting people to talk to.

It was then time to go and do a walk at the South Head. According to tradition the rocky headland is called Aria-te-uru and the harbour Niua, after the names of two taniwha (sea monsters) that Kupe, the first to travel to Aoteoroa from his pacific home of Hawaiki. The taniwha guided the two waka Ngatokimatawhaorua and Mamiri that Kupe sent back to this place. Their assistance is often called on by waka entering the harbour. Ships had a different assistance a signal station originally set up by John Martin in 1838. His flagstaff held a series of flags which told ships whether it was safe to cross the bar, the state of the tide and which direction to take to come in safely. We did not realise until we got there how far out from the headlands the bar was, it was two miles out. Once ships had crossed the bar John Martin and succeeding pilots, would go down to their dingy and row out to guide them in safely to their anchorage. The system of flags was eventually replaced by a series of disks, common to all ports, in 1867. The use of the harbour peaked at the turn of last century and the signal system was in use until 1951.

The bar was first charted by Kendall, the missionary, in 1819, opening up the harbour for the first ships for the potential Kauri trade he had identified and, of course, the setting up of a missionary station on the opposite coast to the Bay of Islands. The size of the Kauri trade can be judged from the fact that one mill alone at Kohukohu employed 5000 people and produced 6 million feet annually - it was finally closed because of fears the sawdust was encroaching into the harbour and would block the channel!

It was also to Hokianga Harbour that the Frenchman De Thierry came to set up his little kingdom. The fear of the French was one factor in the eventual capitulation of the Crown, who did not really want to be involved in New Zealand, and the Treaty of Waitangi.

We continued on to Rawene ('sun setting') to look round the harbour township that was New Zealand's third oldest Pakeha settlement and was the traditional 'capital' of Hokianga. Rawene is the site of the Clendon House, a fine kauri homestead, which is owned by the Historic Places Trust. It is only open Saturday, Sundays and Monday in the summer, but we could look round the outside. The 1860's house was built in Rawene as the final home of on of New Zealand's earliest traders and ship-owners. James Clendon was a witness to the treaty of Waitangi in 1840, a member of the first Legislative Council and a magistrate. His wife Jane, a Maori, inherited his tremendous debts but managed to keep the house and contents together and it remained in the family for 100 years. The house contains many items from the Clendon family collection.

On the way back we stopped at a small nursery which sold trees to pick up a suitable native for Christine's collection, we chose a Kowhai which we were assured would provide a big yellow spread of bloom in the spring, even when confined to pot. We got talking to the owners and admired their grape vines growing all down the sides of the plants and round their house. They told us that have built up a collection of early varieties including a vine originating from the original vine brought by Bishop Pompallier when he first came to New Zealand and was based in the Hokianga area before moving to the Bay of Islands. We were allowed to sample all the grapes and given a couple of bunches from Pompallier vine to take away with us.

Bishop Pompallier's first mission was sited close to Rawene on 6 acres of land contributed by the catholic settler Thomas Poynton in 1838. The site was unsuitable and he moved shortly to a 100-acre site he bought in Purakau on the Northern shore of the Hokianga and the mission lasted there in the twentieth century. He finally set up his headquarters in Kororareka (Russell) in the Bay of Islands and parts of his mission survive there. We have written previous years about our visits to the Pompallier House, his printing works, in Russell. Bishop Pompallier was at Waitangi at the signing of the treaty and at Kororareka when the Maori sacked it, Hone Heki in 1845. He was later Bishop of Auckland. His bones have recently been returned to New Zealand from France, where he had been buried in an unmarked grave, and, after a procession round both islands, have been buried at Motuti in a church which originally stood at Purakau, his main mission on the Hokianga.

Northland - Waipoua Forest Park and Trounson Kauri Park

It was again time to move on, this time into the Kauri forests. The Kauri is an unusual and very long-lived tree; the larger ones can be 2000 years old. Kauri seedlings need plenty of light so they usually start life amid Manuka scrubland in forest clearings formed by windfall or fire. Adolescent trees form a tapering trunk and narrow conical crown. The tall adolescent Kauri have narrow pole trunks, but as they mature the trunk thickens and the lower branches are all shed giving the very clean straight trunk of the adult tree which made their wood so desirable. The bark is shed in plate-sized scales giving a distinctive appearance to the trunk and helps to shop epiphytes from establishing a hold. As they grow older the trunk progressively swells into a vast cylinder whilst the crown becomes thin. Despite the clean trunks the crowns are filled with other plants - one can find as many as 30 different species of epiphytes on a single large Kauri. The largest Kauri such as Tane Mahuta (the Father of Forest) and Te Matua Ngahere have girths of about 15 meters.

We first went into the Trounson Kauri Park, which is the first of the DOC "Mainland Islands" which seek to undo some of the damage done to the native flora and fauna by creating a secure environment in particular, the reduction of the impact of pests. Trounson was chosen to be the first of such experiments as it is literally a forest island surrounded by a sea of farmland; it is isolated from other forest patches and is the home to a number of endangered species such as the North Island Brown Kiwi, Kukupa (NZ pigeon) Pekepaka (bats) and Kauri snails. We had an excellent walk round the Trounson Park - it is not on the tourist route and it was very peaceful. We both decided it was the best area of Kauri we have seen and arguably one of the best medium length bush walks we have been on - the competitors are those in Goblin forests round Egmont.

DOC has set up an information area and there is a lot of information indicating how successful the concept of a Mainland Island has been with full and alarming information on the number of pest caught or poisoned. The number of Kiwi reaching a "safe" size of a kilo rose from 5% to 30% after the first two years of poisoning rodents and Possums and has now climbed to 70% since they have been eliminating stoats and cats by trapping. Feral cats do untold damage to bird life and they are trapping several dozen every year. Dogs are perhaps worse and one single dog killed nearly 200 Kiwi in a six-week period in the past.

We looked at the small DOC camp site at the edge of the park and we intend to return there at some point although the Top Ten with its better facilities, river and swimming hole tempted us again this year. Pete had a swim in the hole that is quite large, very deep and quite invigorating; perhaps it is fed with snowmelt from some far away hills! In the afternoon we went to the nearby Aranga Beach - it should have been a short trip but Pauline chose a shortcut on gravel roads that quickly became single track with grass down the middle and sometimes across the tracks. The beach, when we reached it was spectacular with the Pacific Rollers breaking with great force on the rocky end sending up a fine spray that was carried by the wind up the Maunganu Bluff as far and high as the eye could see. We decided not to climb the bluff, the DOC board offered good views at the end of a 462-metre climb as part of the coast track.

In the evening we used the camp barbeque to cook some of our Kumera, the sweet potato introduced by the Maori. Kumera can be boiled, mashed with lemon - our favourite with fish. The best way is on a barbeque hotplate. Slice 1.5 -2 cms thick with skin on and add to a puddle hot olive oil on a well heated barbeque hotplate and cook for circa 15 minutes till the sides are a dark golden brown and the centre soft - superb but few seem to know of that way of cooking it.

In the evening we took the night tour of the Trounson Kauri Park. It was very good although we neither heard nor saw Kiwis we saw the ells and fresh water crayfish as well as a number of the big carnivorous snails and the more common weta. It was also much easier to understand the way the Kauri grows and the other growth such as the ferns when an individual tree could be picked out by torch and followed up through the canopy. There were also lots of glowworms in the forest as well as a side trip to those near the campsite on our return where we also watched the evening feeding of the ells in the swimming hole. Well worth the $15 and 2 hours of time.

The Tangihua Forest Kauri Dam

The nest day we went to look for a Kauri Dam in the Tangihua Forest that we had seen mentioned on one of the DOC leaflets. It is reached from the route 14 from Dargaville to Whangarei by taking the Omana Road out of Tangoriteroa - this road rapidly become gravel and after about 20 kms having passed Omana and just after the turn to Pikiwahine there is a small sign to Lodge (The Tangihua Lions Lodge) and a car park with a DOC board with a map. We did a walk taking about two and a quarter hours into the forest along the road to the lodge, then a side track to the Kauri Dam and back, on to see the lodge and back via the 'Nature Walk'. The final section to the Kauri Dam was rough and could be slipper in wet weather and there was a scramble to get past a viewing platform and down to the Kauri Dam itself. We made it in Walking Sandals but boots would have been better.

Kauri Dams were required because most Kauri Forests were well inland and there was no easy way to get the logs to the sea or other routes to saw mills. The logs were therefore dragged to a convenient streambed with steep sides and a Kauri Dam was constructed of wood with a "trapdoor" near the bottom large enough for the logs to pass through. The logs were typically a couple of metres diameter and 4-5 metres long so the door was considerable size and the dam was tens of metres high. The trapdoor was constructed so that when the dam was full, and that could take a year, it could be tripped and the water released. The logs floating above the dam were sucked down through the hole and swept down to the sea. Only parts of the base and bracing remain of the dam in the Tangihua Forest but one could imagine how it must have looked. We will enquire around to see if any pictures of it when operational still exist.

We left Trounson taking one of the backroads via Tutamoe, Waimatenui and Te Iringa across to Kaikohe where we joined the main join the main road to Paihia. Unlike most of such trips this actually saved enough distance to be quicker (1 hour 20 minutes for the 53 kms) as well as having some excellent scenery.

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Content revised: 3 rd February, 2016
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