Dozens of trees and shrubs in the Pureora Forest and Tongariro Forest Conservation Area have been illegally removed or hacked down.
Among those are two rimu trees – one estimated to be up to 600 years old – in the Pureora Forest that were “brutally felled and left at the scene”, the Department of Conservation (DOC) said.
“It’s a breach of the Conservation Act to fell native trees on public conservation land, or remove native plants from those areas,” said DOC principal compliance officer Matt Davis. “No one has the right to remove or fell native trees in this way.”
A 25-metre-tall matai was also felled, along with several smaller trees, near the isolated Waihora Lagoon in Pureora.
“By felling that single matai tree, these people have destroyed the habitat and homes of other species DOC and iwi and conservation partners work hard to protect,” Davis said.
“It will take generations for that tree to be replaced.”
Removal of logs and other plant material reduces the habitat for fungi, invertebrates, and other elements of the ecosystem and lessens nutrient recycling within the forest.
Large native trees are also roost sites for colonies of native bats, and song posts for kokakō.
DOC staff also discovered up to 30 trees felled near Owhango on the western edge of the Tongariro Forest Conservation Area.
“Tī koūka (cabbage), māhoe, horopito, kamahi, puka and other trees have been hacked down and dumped at the site to create a clearing.
“Possible motivations for illegal tree felling include use of the timber for landscaping or firewood, or to create a clearing for hunting. None of these are acceptable,” Davis said.
DOC is urging visitors to the conservation forests to report any suspicious activity.
The illegal removal or harvesting of trees or plants from public conservation land can result in a fine of up to $100,000 and two years in jail.
If the offending continues, further fines of $10,000 a day can be imposed.