The Pehitawa Kahikatea Forest Reserve is an 18.5ha block which forms part of a series of small remnants of lowland kahikatea forest along the Mangapu River, 5km north-west of Te Kuiti in the northern King Country. It is surrounded by farmland.
The reserve was purchased in 2001 from the farming owners who were keen to see this important remnant protected rather than felled. The kahikatea forest in the area has been gradually eroded, only 50ha remain in the Mangapu River valley, with over 70ha felled since 1975. As a result of negotiations, a neighbouring 20ha block on Maori lease land has also been fenced and protected, making the total protected area a significant proportion of the remaining forest.
The forest is in almost virgin condition with mature pole-stand kahikatea, some aged around 120 years. There are fine specimens of mature swamp maire, matai, titoki and pukatea. The ground cover is in excellent condition.
Bird numbers are significant, including tui, kereru and shining cuckoo and there is also a black shag rookery. Previous surveys have recorded the presence of freshwater clams/mussels, land snails, skinks and numerous native beetles.
This remnant, although small, is described as self-sustaining. It represents a forest type that once covered 41,000ha in the Waipa Ecological District now sadly reduced through clearance to only 158ha. For these reasons it is the most important remnant in the North Island.
A gravelled walkway, part of the Te Araroa trail, transects the reserve. On the website for the trail it is described as the Pehitawa track: https://www.teararoa.org.nz/waikato/pehitawa-track/
Plant pests include willow, glyceria, privet and gorse on the margins. Kahikatea are particularly susceptible to poison so weed control needs to be handled very carefully. Fencing has been completed to exclude stock and goats.
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