Aongatete Forest Project was a hive of activity on the last day of April when we hosted visitors from ‘the other side’. Our pest management relatives from over the Kaimai in Matamata, Wairere Mahi and Predator Free Matamata, are working towards instigating pest management between Wairere Falls and Te Aroha.

The team from Wairere Mahi, lead by Tim Aoakea, has begun a Ngati Hinerangi restoration project that is funded through the Manaaki Kaimai Mamaku Trust/DOC Jobs for Nature and focuses on the forest. Predator Free Matamata, lead by Martin Louw, are volunteers striving for improved pest management in the residential and rural communities in and around Matamata.  We were incredibly impressed with their collaboration and enthusiasm. We appreciated them sharing their experiences and te ao Maori with us.

At Aongatete our team have been ‘walking the line’ now for 17 years so they were keen to learn how we operate. We had a great discussion about our operations, systems and processes. We talked about traps and baits, engaging volunteers, reporting to authorities and keeping people safe and happy. Effort, costs and outcomes of our mahi were considered.

The opportunities and achievements of community conservation projects was recognised. Everyone appreciated that their mahi extends well beyond just pest management and biodiversity outcomes. It also provides a sense of belonging and worth via participation in a project, a connection to nature and opportunities for education and upskilling… effectively building community! We toured a cross section of the forest to see our pest management in action. We also looked at our educational infrastructure, discussed things to avoid and what we’ve gotten right.

Predator Free Matamata and Wairere Mahi are growing their working relationship to improve pest management of the entire region. Meeting them confirmed to us they are on the road to success.  We hope to see this approach more and more across the region moving forward.

Everybody’s situation is different and there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution.  Sharing experiences certainly helps speed the learning curve, exploring how things can be done differently and accelerating our achievements.

Aongatete Forest Project welcome any groups on their pest management journey to visit.

Words and images Emma Cronin