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Allan Barber highlights the long term project by the Forest Bridge Trust to restore the biodiversity from the Kaipara Harbour in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east, across North Auckland

Rural News / opinion
Allan Barber highlights the long term project by the Forest Bridge Trust to restore the biodiversity from the Kaipara Harbour in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east, across North Auckland

North Auckland couple Kevin and Gill Adshead have an impressive track record of establishing effective programmes for the eradication of pests and increasing biodiversity, initially on their own farm and subsequently across the island from the Kaipara Harbour to the Hauraki Gulf. Gill is the fifth generation of her family since 1868 to farm the 1300 hectare Mataia property at Glorit which they ran for 28 years, before leasing it out and spending two years in the Solomon Islands where they observed the massive amount of deforestation because of torrential rainfall which completely changed their perspective on how to look after the land.

They recognised the potential impact of tree felling on the health of the waterways, the stability of the land and the importance of planting native bush. On their return home they applied to DOC for a grant, prepared a restoration plan and began by setting possum traps. This coincided with Auckland Council’s five yearly cyanide dump which successfully took out hundreds of possums with an immediate benefit of protecting the pohutukawas that were being stripped by the pests.

The Mataia Restoration Project was initially established in 2006 on 450 ha. to increase the biodiversity of the property with 100 ha in forestry and the remaining land now farmed by their daughter and son-in-law on which they run ewes and beef cows, with the farm area now including a further 400 ha which was previously leased by a neighbouring farmer. Thousands of metres of fencing have been erected to protect the wildlife from outside predators and 150,000 native trees planted since 2005 with volunteer help. More recently the Adsheads have partnered with Kaipara Moana Remediation which matches expenditure dollar for dollar to preserve the health of the land and the Kaipara Harbour.

With the possums under control the next stage of the project was to trap rats, weasels, and stoats before starting the process of translocating kiwi from Motuora Island in the Hauraki Gulf to Mataia which posed the additional challenge of gaining agreement from the two iwi in the respective areas. Predator control is now managed by 1080 in bait stations every three years which is effective in controlling the rat population, while the stoats that cunningly teach their young to avoid the bait stations eat the dead rats.

After a three year translocation programme, the kiwi population was now firmly established at Mataia. However, the Adsheads were advised by DOC a minimum of 10,000 ha was necessary to achieve a sustainable kiwi population, so they decided to set up the Forest Bridge Trust in 2014 with funding for traps from the Environment Ministry. The Trust’s vision is “to create a connected landscape of healthy forest and indigenous wildlife from the Kaipara Harbour in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east.”

The Forest Bridge Trust began with three contractors and now employs 24 full time equivalents and four contractors as a result of $8.5 million funding from DOC’s Jobs for Nature programme which finishes in 2025. As distinct from the initial grant in 2014 which only covered project related expenditure, the current funding can also be applied to employing people. The aim is to establish 54,000 ha of predator free area from coast to coast and a mark of progress is the successful translocation of 10 pairs of kiwi to Mt Tamahunga on the East Coast with a similar number next year.

The Adsheads were awarded the QSM in 2021 for services to conservation, being the first people to introduce kiwi to private land, and in 2022 the two generations involved in the Mataia property won three awards at the Auckland Ballance Farm Environment Awards for their soil management, livestock and business management with the judges complimenting them on running a thriving farm with challenging soils and diverse income streams which enabled the protection of waterways and excellent conservation practices.  

The Adsheads are very enthusiastic about the social impact of the Forest Bridge Trust’s work on whole communities, noting the successful return of Logue’s Bush near Wellsford to DOC, although this attractive scenic reserve is now closed because of the threat of kauri dieback. Much work has also been done in schools through the award winning Forest Bridge Defenders programme which helps children to understand the threats to wildlife and teaches them important skills like improving their trapping.

The next big challenge for the Trust is to secure future funding beyond 2025 and it is currently working out what it will cost to monitor the protection activities now in place as well as what is required to expand the present activities. It would like to be able to increase the area covered to plug the geographical gap between other projects further to the north and south with similar objectives.

Another of Gill’s areas of focus is as the local representative of the Rural Support Trust which does much needed work with farmers suffering mounting pressures from severe weather, finances, relationships, and work. A current RST initiative is to distribute care packs including a $150 pressy card and a few essentials which she has given to local meat buyers and stock agents to help reach farmers in need of support. This small gesture has been much appreciated, as there are a lot of farmers in the Kaipara who have been affected by the last few months of appalling weather events.

Kevin and Gill show no real signs of slowing down any time soon, although they can’t wait for the weather to improve sufficiently for them to return to their off grid cottage on the farm where they will be able to hear all the native birds without interference from double glazing. Their commitment to nature, conservation and community is a joy to see.

Current schedule and saleyard prices are available in the right-hand menu of the Rural section of this website.

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A bright spot amongst the gloom. Good read for the end of the day thanks.


Great work, especially in setting up partnerships. Pest work can be a bit daunting on your own , impossible on such a big block.