Background and History of the Aongatete Forest Project


The concept for this project began in 2001 with a search to locate the last surviving kokako in the Kaimai range. The search revealed the heavily browsed and degraded state of the Kaimai-Mamaku Forest Park and the paucity of bird life.

The Tauranga branch of Forest & Bird approached Katikati Rotary and Ngai Tamawhariua for help to set up a pest control and advocacy project at Aongatete. These groups formed the Aongatete Forest Restoration Trust.

In 2006 the project started with pest (rats, possums and stoats) control over an area of 140 hectares and this was subsequently extended to cover 245 hectares. In 2013 the national office of the Royal Forest & Bird Society of NZ (Forest & Bird) funded the expansion of the project area to some 500 hectares. In 2016 the Trust decided to operate under the name Aongatete Forest Project to reflect the close partnership with Forest & Bird.



Opuiaki Ecological Area is on the Mamaku plateau behind Oropi. The Opuiaki kokako in 1983 were the largest population of kokako known to be surviving in NZ/world at that time-  about 300 birds. They were the flagship we used to save the Mamaku and Kaimai forests from further conversion to pine plantations in about 1987.

DOC ignored these forests and birds until in 2000 I asked an excellent Forest and Bird member who was serving on the Conservation Board to raise the issue and to stir DOC into checking these birds out as I had just found out that kokako had disappeared from all the other local forests such as Puwhenua, Otanewainuku, Aongatete, Kaimai etc. DOC did a survey and found 18 birds left!

They did a 1080 drop over some 6000 ha and set up bait stations over a 1000 ha core. After 2 years of baiting this core the population hadn’t recorded any chicks. Probably there were only a couple of females in the 18 birds recorded. Very slowly they improved as they built up a few more female chicks, but about 5-6 years ago the programme stopped and this still small population has been ignored again, although DOC was going to do 10,000 ha of aerial 1080 about a year back until the local tangata whenua objected.

This history of kokako is part of the background to the formation of our trust by Tauranga F&B (particularly Eddie) and I am sure you will agree that it makes our adoption of a kokako symbol most fitting. It explains why one of our objectives is to advocate for widespread and sustained control of pests over the entire park.

Basil Graeme September 2016

February 4, 2006
  • Trust Deed executed

    February 4, 2006 @ 2:30 pm - 3:30 pm

    Aongatete Forest Restoration Trust registered as a Charitable Trust Society, by Forest and Bird, our founder members and Paeahi Heta Ranginui Wanakore of Ngai Tamawhariua.

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March 7, 2015
  • Opening of the Kohanga

    March 7, 2015

    Opening of the Kohanga. See Posts for videos of the event.

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September 11, 2016
  • Stoat Buster Training

    September 11, 2016 @ 11:30 am - 12:30 pm

    Training provided to new members of Stoat Busting team.

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September 13, 2016
  • Official Opening of Nature Trail

    September 13, 2016
    Aongatete Outdoor Education Centre, 834 Wright Rd, Aongatete 3178, New Zealand

    The new signs placed along the forest tracks are beautiful, informative and fun and they really enhance the pleasure of walking in the forest.

    There are 30 interactive panels. Who am I? signs offer clues to different birds and invite you to look inside to find out more.

    Use a pencil and paper on the Leaf Rubbings sign and make your own copy to identify the leaves of trees. On the other panels you can learn about the forest ecology, insects, pest control, geology and Maori medicine.

    The new signs are a joint project between the Aongatete Outdoor Education Centre and the
    Aongatete Forest Restoration Trust. They will be enjoyed by all forest walkers and the hundreds of children who attend camps at the Education Centre each year.

    Funds for the signs have come from the Department of Conservation, the Western Bay of Plenty District Council, and the Lion Foundation.

    Go to to see the signage.

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October 26, 2016
  • DOC volunteer Wednesday - Aongatete Forest

    October 26, 2016

    DOC Tauranga runs a monthly "Volunteer Wednesday" and this month they are leading a team of volunteers who will cut a new track to the river and decommission an older and less safe route. If you're interested in volunteering with DOC once a month, contact the Tauranga Office (07-578 7677).

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