Tree-hugging in New Zealand
You’ll hear the phrase “bushwalk” a lot in New Zealand. That’s because walking through the native forest is a favourite past time. You’ll see native plants not found anywhere else, especially beech forests, kauri forests, and New Zealand’s plant icon the New Zealand fern.
Before humans inhabited New Zealand, the country was 80% forest. It was the perfect habitat for wildlife, such as kiwi, takahe and tuatara just to name a few. But since the arrival of humans, fires and agriculture have cleared most of the land of forest, leaving around 24%.
These remaining areas of forest are protected today, however, foreign pests and diseases pose the biggest threat to native plants and wildlife. Although you can enjoy the forests, it’s crucial that visitors respect them. This list will show you the ways you can help protect New Zealand’s forests.
1. Volunteer for the Department of Conservation (DoC)
DoC is the governing body that overlooks the conservation ofNew Zealand’s forests, amongst other things. You can volunteer to help maintain and protect forests for both humans and native wildlife to enjoy. See how you can volunteer here.
2. Use Designated Campsites and Backcountry Huts
Campsites and huts have the facilities designed for your convenience while having minimal impact on the environment. This is more environmentally-friendly than freedom camping. Check out more in our article: Camping in New Zealand.
3. Don’t Litter
Take your rubbish out of the forest with you. Litter can trap wildlife, animals and birds can choke on it, attract pests and bacteria, and it makes the forest look a mess! Find out more about simple things you can do to decrease your environmental impact here.
4. Visit Sanctuaries
Sanctuaries are specially protected areas of New Zealand for native plant life and wildlife to live and grow. Paying to visit a sanctuary like Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari and Zealandia, is a contribution to the upkeep of the sanctuary. Find out more about the work Sanctuary Mountain is doing, and for cute kiwi pictures, here: Saving Smaug the Kiwi Bird.
5. Donate to Organisations Protecting the Forests
Charities and organisations protect native forests and the wildlife living in them, mainly through pest control. You can donate to DoC, Kiwis for Kiwi, Forest & Bird, Sanctuary Mountain and more.
6. Go Hunting for Pests
A more hands-on approach to protecting the forests and their wildlife is by hunting. Hunt for pests, such as possums, deer, pigs and goats, which pose a threat to vegetation and native wildlife. See where you can hunt and what to hunt on the DoC website. If you do not have a hunting license, it’s best to go with an approved activity provider. Find out more in Hunting in New Zealand.
7. Walk on the Tracks
New Zealand’s forests have a large network of walking tracks. This is so people don’t end up trampling all over plants and nests. Also, resist the temptation to touch pest traps.
8. Don’t Light a Fire
Remember what happened to Bambi’s mother! There is a fire ban in all conservation areas. You need a fire permit from DoC to light a fire even 1km outside of a conservation area.
9. Respect the Rules of Walking Tracks
DoC signs in forests will symbolise what you can and cannot do in the protected area, such as mountain biking, horse riding, hunting, etc. Some walks have stations to wash your hiking shoes. Respect this by using them to stop the spread of disease.
10. Check Hiking and Camping Gear for Pests
It sounds crazy that you could accidentally bring mice or ants into a forest, but it has been known to happen. Pests can be rainbow skinks ants, mice and rats. Soil and seeds are also pests, so it’s important to clean this off your gear before delving into the forest.