Our Forest

Aongatete is a precious lowland forest sitting on the edge of a climatic and ecological boundary. Hosting a unique mix of flora and fauna whose northern or southern limits meet here, it’s significant as almost all Kaimai forest of this type has been converted to farmland.

Where is Aongatete Forest?

Pikirangi Road, at the end of Wright Road in Aongatete. The forest is only a 30 minute drive from Tauranga, 20 minutes from Katikati or 2.5 hours from Auckland. A public carpark is situated below the Project’s kohanga (the base of operations for our work in the forest).

Access to the forest tracks, which are under the control of the Department of Conservation, start from the carpark.

Tracks and features in our forest

Aongatete has a range of amazing walking tracks through regenerating native forest, not to mention that summer favourite, the Aongatete River swimming holes. There is something for everyone with our short Nature Walk through to the 3.5 hour Long Loop Track.

Below is a list or our tracks (click to expand)

Take the track from the carpark – this leads to a junction where the circular Nature Trail starts and finishes. A short loop takes you through lowland puriri and kohekohe forest. Popular with school groups, it features engaging information boards about the flora and fauna in our forest.

Starting from the boardwalk, follow the grass track up the hill past the kohanga and then on into the forest.  Take the well-marked Loop Track until you reach a junction, which is signposted. The Long Loop continues on ahead, so veer to your right here for the Short Loop. It’s a reasonable gentle grade but there are plenty of exposed tree roots in places. Follow the signs as you go and you’ll emerge back at the car park after about an hour.

This is a more difficult track including short, moderately steep sections and stream crossings. Starting from the board walk, head up into the forest and follow the Loop Track path. You’ll pass the junction with the Short Loop on your right – continue straight ahead. There are a couple of stream crossings later in the walk and shortly after these you will meet another junction where the Short Loop merges. Carry on ahead, follow the signs and you’ll eventually come out back at the car park.

Take the track from the carpark (do not walk up the driveway, use the bush track to the left hand side of the gate). You will come to a junction where the track to the swimming holes is signposted.  Cross the river and continue on the other side for a short distance before reaching the attractive swimming holes.

Things you might find in our forest

Long-tailed bat the presence of long-tailed bats was recently confirmed at Aongatete by ultrasonic bat detectors. Although the more common of our bat species, it’s still classified as Threatened – Nationally Critical.

Tomtit – this small but striking black and white bird is sometimes seen in the forest.

Whitehead – recently discovered at Aongatete, their presence was a welcome surprise. Classified as At Risk – Declining.

Kaka – Regular visitors to Aongatete, attempts (unsuccessful so far) have been made to entice them to stay and breed. Classified as At Risk – Recovering.

North Island Robin – a common sight at Aongatete, this cheeky bird with a loud and distinctive call is often seen flitting about close to forest tracks, attracted by the presence of visitors. Classified as At Risk – Declining.

Rifleman – thought to have disappeared from the northern Kaimai entirely, but a remnant population must have survived as they were sighted again in 2013 and have become increasingly common at Aongatete ever since. They make a high-pitched noise which usually only younger ears can hear! Classified as At Risk – Declining.

Hochstetter’s frog – cryptic and rarely encountered, this native frog lives near watercourses. Classified as At Risk – Declining

Helms butterfly / forest ringlet butterfly – this beautiful native butterfly is rarely seen, but the number of characteristic nibblings on patches of its larvae’s food source, gahnia, suggest Aongatete may be a stronghold for the species. Classified as At Risk – Relict

Peripatus – occasionally seen on our hosted Night Walks, this intriguing animal, looking like a worm with legs, is a “living fossil” having hardly changed in 500 million years.

Forest gecko – a beautifully patterned but scarce and rarely seen lizard, the forest gecko is classified as At Risk – Declining.

King fern – Aongatete is home to a remnant population of this beautiful, large fern. Susceptible to deer browse, the plants have now been fenced in and some specimens translocated to a more accessible display area that has also been fenced. Classified as At Risk -Declining.

Toropapa – Delightfully scented, this shrub is very common in the forest.

Raukawa – Another plant very susceptible to browsing, particularly from deer. It only survives at Aongatete in small numbers where it has established epiphytically on tree ferns out of the reach of deer.

Ileostylus micranthus – Green mistletoe is very rare at Aongatete and has only been observed growing on totara.

Fan fern (Schizaea dichotoma) – Small patches of this rare and unusual looking fern can be found in the forest. Classified as At Risk – Naturally Uncommon.

Mida salicifolia – This plant is easily mistaken for a white maire, but is a small hemiparasitic tree that derives some of its nutrients from the roots of other trees. Classified as At Risk – Declining.

Kawaka – There are a handful of beautiful specimens of this large native cedar at Aongatete. Previously classified as At Risk – Naturally Uncommon, it’s now Not Threatened but nevertheless remains sparse in its overall distribution.

Brachyglottis kirkii – Aongatete is home to both varieties of this shrub. B. kirkii var. angustior is abundant in places, whilst the much rarer epiphytic variety, B kirkii var. kirikii (classified as Threatened – Nationally Vulnerable) is only occasionally observed. They both have large, beautiful daisy-like flowers.

Northern rata – This tree is to be found at various stages in its lifecycle, from a small epiphyte tentatively growing its roots down the trunk of a host tree to large mature emergent trees. It is also to be found establishing terrestrially in places.

Poroporo (Solanum aviculare) – Not to be confused with its close relative, the common Solanum laciniatum, this shrub is now classified as Threatened – Nationally Vulnerable. It is present at Aongatete in very low numbers.

Ramarama – This small tree with its attractive bullate leaves often grows unobserved in the forest. Owing to the threat from myrtle rust, to which it appears particularly susceptible, this species is now classified as Threatened – Nationally Critical.

Lindsaea – All three species of Lindsaea ferns may be found at Aongatete. L. viridis, which grows on river banks is classified as Threatened – Naturally Uncommon.

Dactylanthus taylorii – A fully parasitic plant that grows underground on the roots of certain trees, but which flowers above ground in summer. The plant causes a deformation in the host root that used to be collected and preserved as “wood roses”. Seeds have been sown at Aongatete, but will take many years to establish. Classified as Threatened – Nationally Vulnerable.

Tupeia Antarctica – Seeds of white mistletoe were recently sown at Aongatete. It will take some years to know if establishment was successful. Classified as At Risk – Declining.

The DOC Kaimai to Coast brochure features all the tracks and many others in the surrounding area.

Planning a visit? What you need to know

Visiting as a Volunteer?

If you haven’t already, please register with us beforehand. We’ll ensure you get the right info to make your forest experience as a volunteer a safe, sound and happy one!

Visiting as a family or school group?

Spot birds, learn about our tree species and discover what’s hiding beneath the leaves! We have a range of engaging and entertaining resources available for making the most of a visit to the forest.