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One of the best examples of cabbage tree forest remnants anywhere in the country.

04 August 2012

An exciting collaboration to restore one of the country's last remaining cabbage tree forests to its former glory is bringing the communities of Hikuai and Tairua closer to TCDC, Waikato Regional Council and local iwi.

To those who have stopped at the one-lane Baily Bridge near Hikuai and driven past the start of the wetland forest along Tairua River, it may have seemed that this is an area solely of privet, blackberry and other noxious nasties. But behind an apparent roadside barrier of weeds along SH25 lies 7ha of native wetland tree species including large groves of cabbage trees that are among the best examples of cabbage tree forest remnants anywhere in the country.

The Hikuai Cabbage Tree Forest, as it is becoming known, is one of a very rare eco-system in the Waikato because we've lost 90 per cent of our wetlands. It's of importance to the Ngati Hei people, who once dwelled on a pa to the west, and who have today commissioned the Wildlands Report to determine what insects and birdlife still exist there. It's used as a flood relief area for an adjacent farmer and fronts a section of the Tairua River popular for waterskiing, wakeboarding and whitebaiting. 

Although it's a natural and recreational treasure of importance to its community and iwi, the area has become degraded through years of weed growth and will one day lose the fight if it is not given a helping hand.

At a community meeting held last Thursday at Hikuai Hall, more than a dozen residents from Hikuai and Tairua agreed to join forces with local authorities and begin the journey to turn it around.

TCDC and WRC have already mulched 3ha of weed-infested land within the forest and used a spray to selectively kill the re-infestation that set in less than a month later.

Thousands of baby cabbage trees have since sprouted in groves by themselves - they just needed light - and our councils have set a community planting date of Saturday 11 August at 10am to plant out some 600 wetland plants including cabbage tree (Cordyline australis), toe toe, flax and sedge.

TCDC and WRC have already achieved a lot with a small budget and, subject to the completion of a safe public access that does not currently exist off the state highway, we hope to develop the project with explanatory signage, picnic tables and the possibility of a walking trail for the public to enjoy.

The councils are applying for funding from the Ministry for the Environment Community Environment Fund and hope much of this can be achieved by using this external funding source.

The long-term plan over five or more years is to restore the whole strip back to its former glory and see it thrive again.


A cabbage tree

All about the Cabbage Tree

The cabbage tree (Cordyline australis), is known as the Tree of Life for the many little heads said to represent a different family member. Old cabbage trees grow hollow inside and besides its beautiful character and spiky architectural form, it deserves love and respect as a remedy against erosion due to the peg root that it shoots 2m down into the earth.

Once established it's almost impossible to pull out, explains WRC biodiversity officer Matt Highway, who rates the cabbage tree as one of the sturdiest native trees for ecological restoration. "It's one of our deepest rooted native plants and offers food for birds like Kereru, tui and bellbirds, who'll eat the white berries and distribute the seeds."

Regional council contractor Iain Baggaley measured one cabbage tree in Port Jackson with a circumference of 3.7m - the largest he's ever come across anywhere in the country. "There may be a bigger one here in Hikuai," muttered the gathering of locals at the community meeting. Investigation is under way.


Want to lend a hand?

Between 20 - 30 volunteers are needed and anyone interested in lending a hand should register here. andy.wills@waikatoregion.govt.nz