The Mahakirau Forest Estate comprises almost 600 hectares of native forest divided into 24 private properties with introduced animal and plant controls. Each site is covenanted with the QEII National Trust (560ha) or with Thames Coromandel District Council (16ha). Mahakirau Forest Estate is bounded on three sides by the Department of Conservation (DOC) managed land – with the Manaia Kauri Sanctuary to the south and the Coromandel State Forest to the east and west. Most of the estate is recognized in the Protected Natural Area Programme (PNAP) and forms a Recommended Area for Protection (RAP) that is contiguous with areas administered by DOC.
The Mahakirau Forest Estate Society Incorporated (MFESI) has been established since 2001 to act as a united legal entity, and the society has been undertaking pest control (to protect and restore biodiversity) on behalf of all member landowners. The group has been, and continues to be, a highly motivated and active group of individuals driven by the desire to protect and enhance the Coromandel and New Zealand’s natural environment, and in particular its threatened species.
The Mahakirau Forest Estate has been ranked as holding “outstanding wildlife value”, including the extremely rare Coromandel striped gecko, Hochstetter’s and Archey’s frogs, North Island kaka and North Island brown kiwi, alongside significant indigenous vegetation. Helms butterflies, painted cave weta, longfin eel and kokopu spp. have also all been found in the estate. There are strong resident populations of kereru, tui, bellbird, fantail, tomtit, silver eye, grey warbler, kingfisher, morepork and shining cuckoo.
The diverse forest flora consists of over 50 tree species including mature Northern Rata, Kauri, Miro, Rimu, Halls Totara, Kahikatea, Kaikawaka, Tanekaha, Taraire, Pukatea, Kohekohe, Kanuka and Manuka, as well as prolific and diverse epiphytic, understorey and stream boundary flora (including at risk King Fern and Kirk’s daisy).
The Manaia Sanctuary, immediately south of the estate, is the only remaining concentrated stand of mature mid altitude kauri on the Coromandel Range. Ages of kauri were estimated from cores (PCQ method) in 1984, stating they range from between 441 years to 2499 years.
Due to these high ecological values, Environment Waikato rated the estate as a ‘Key Ecological Site’ in the Waikato Region in 1999. Mahakirau Forest Estate was ranked 15th out of the 146 key ecological sites identified.