From our anchoring spot in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand, we went ashore at Paihia Wharf and then boarded a van for a 45-minute drive inland to the Manginangina Scenic Reserve operated by the New Zealand Departmnent of Conservation (Te Papa Atawhai). This ancient kauri forest is located in the heart of New Zealand’s Northland and with Omahuta Forest, forms one of the largest adjoining tracts of native forest in Northland. The 37,000 acre / 15,000 hectare forest is home to several rare native birds; kauri, podocarp and hardwood trees; and more than 370 recorded species of plants. Puketi played a central role in the lives of Māori and early European settlers thanks to its sustaining plants and animals. We had a fantastic naturalist lead our small group on a walk along a raised boardwalk in the kauri forest (much of the ground was wetlands; the boardwalk also protects the tree roots from the pounding they’d get if all visitors walked on terra firma).
The Puketi- Omahuta Forest is one of the best remaining examples of the subtropical rainforests which once clothed Northern New Zealand. Lying in the heart of Taitokerau (Northland) the forest has provided spiritual and physical sustenance to Māori for the past 1,000 years. The forest survived early European logging and farm development because of its steep terrain and poor soils. Around the beginning of the 20th century, huge tracts of kauri forest were destroyed. Only 3% of the original forest now remains. Today the forest is a haven for native plants and wildlife, including kiwi, rare native bats, and kauri snails.
The fallen kauri tree in the photograph above was deliberately wounded in times past by gum bleeders. When damaged, kauri produce a gum to act as a bandage as the tree tries to heal itself. However, these wounds can also be a point of infection and this tree succumbed to heart rot and blew down in a storm. Kauri gum was once highly valued for the manufacture of varnishes and linoleum. The gum was primarily dug from fossilized deposits in many Northland swamps, but as this became harder to find, bleeding of live trees began. Gum bleeders climbed kauri trees with spiked hammers and boots making cuts at intervals up the trunk, later returning to collect the solidifies gum. This practice was eventually outlawed in 1905, but for many trees the damage was already done.