Waipā ecological corridor links two mountains to help native wildlife thrive


4 min read

Dairy farmer Bush Macky with the duck pond created on his farm, surrounded by extensive planting.

Dairy farmers, sheep and beef farmers, iwi and other community members are working together to create an ecological corridor in the Waipā district and have high aspirations for 2024.

The Taiea te Taiao project will link Maungatautari and Mt Pirongia by planting along the Mangapiko Stream and its tributaries, on farms and other properties. A wide range of other environmental work is also underway, including restoring wetlands and predator control.

“A key goal is to create stepping stones along the corridor that provide attractive stopping points for native birds and bats to rest and feed, mostly by planting trees. This will help increase wildlife numbers and biodiversity,” says project coordinator Bexie Towle.

The maunga/mountains are more than 40km apart, so the whole community is involved.

Dairy farmer Bush Macky says it’s a fabulous project at the heart of the community. “It’s so rewarding working with the hundreds of people and more than 20 organisations involved, including DairyNZ and dairy companies, to help native wildlife thrive and enhance local waterways.”

Key project goals for 2024 include researching native trees and plants unique to the area that have disappeared due to predators like possums and creating a plan to bring them back in the long term. A similar initiative has been launched by DOC, with the support of local iwi, hapū, and the community, to reintroduce tāpia/mistletoe on Mt Pirongia.

In other Taiea te Taiao project goals, iwi will work to enhance taonga/treasure species within the corridor including kākahi/freshwater mussels and piharau/lamprey. Pou/cultural markers are also planned to recognise cultural sites along Mangapiko Stream.

On his dairy farm at the Mt Pirongia end of the corridor, Bush has planted more than 15,000 native trees and plants. He created a duck pond surrounded by planting and retired some land from farming. Bush says there’s been no loss in farm production and no impact on business viability.

“It’s a win-win. We’ve added value to the community and our property. We’re seeing more native birds on our farm than ever before,” says Bush.

So far, more than 200,000 plants have been added to the corridor. Nine kilometres of waterways have been fenced to protect them and native trees planted alongside.

Erosion control and willow removal is also underway on the Mangapiko Stream. The corridor planting is regularly maintained, with weed control across 22 hectares. A comprehensive pest management programme includes trap lines and bait station networks on both maunga, and traps on private property.

The Mangapiko Stream as it leaves Maungatautari. The ecological corridor is linking Maungatautari and Mt Pirongia by planting along the stream.

Four iwi are closely involved in the project: Ngāti Apakura including Pūrekireki Marae, Te Ruranga o Ngāti Apakura, Ngāti Korokī Kahukura and Ngāti Hikairo. Nine tohu whenua/Māori heritage sites including pā, lie along the Mangapiko Stream, signifying the relationships between nature and people who once lived between the two maunga.

Poto Davies of Ngāti Koroki Kahukura says the iwi want the two maunga connected, first and foremost. “Beautifying the Mangapiko Stream will enhance its mana. The stream is the veins of the land, and the whenua is important to us all,” says Poto.

Māori heritage sites alongside the Mangapiko Stream between Maungatautari and Pirongia are being protected as part of the ecological project. Tuna/freshwater eels are being monitored using mātauranga Māori methods.

Clare St Pierre, co-chair of the Maungatautari to Pirongia Ecological Corridor Incorporated Society, says it’s amazing to be creating biodiversity strongholds for birds. “We’re providing an environment for our iconic species so people can see them on their back doorstep.”

More than 20 organisations are involved in the Taiea te Taiao project including funders, sponsors and supporters. The Ministry for the Environment provides funding through the Freshwater Initiatives Fund for two employees, and NZ Landcare Trust coordinates the project.

Industry good organisation DairyNZ supports farmers in their work to reduce environmental footprint and organises on-farm fieldays for the project. Fonterra, Nestlé and Open Country Dairy contribute funding to the project, and the dairy companies support their farmers with on-farm environmental work.

For more information – Taiea te Taiao ecological corridor: landcare.org.nz/ecologicalcorridor

Ecological corridor a family affair

The Storey family dairy farm is one of the stepping stones for native birds and bats in the ecological corridor from Maungatautari to Mt Pirongia in the Waipā district.

The Te Awamutu family is excited to help boost biodiversity. Josh, wife Bayley and their extended family have planted more than 25,000 trees on the farm, adding to a remnant forest of Kahikatea and other native trees. They’ve removed willow and weeds from the Mangapiko Stream and retired some land from farming.

Dairy farmers Josh and Bayley Storey and family have planted more than 25,000 trees on their farm, adding to a remnant forest of Kahikatea and other native trees.

“Environmental work on our farm spans six generations – including my great grandfather Doug, my grandfather John, my father Doug and now me and Bayley,” says Josh.

“As farmers, we want to do our best to protect the land and enhance native wildlife. We love seeing tūī, kererū and karearea/New Zealand falcon on our farm.”

Native bird and bat numbers on the rise

Native birds:

  • Kōkako ecologist Dave Bryden says Maungatautari and Pirongia are home to the two fastest growing kōkako populations in New Zealand in recent surveys.
  • The Taiea te Taiao ecological corridor project recently secured funding from Waikato Regional Council’s environmental initiatives fund to support native birds – with pest control around the fenced area on Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari.
  • This will provide a buffer and stronger defence against pests to help native birds who can fly over the fence to stay safe when venturing further afield.

Native bats:

  • Maungataturi is home to long tailed pekapeka/bats, which travel and feed along waterways including the Mangapiko Stream.
  • One of the goals of the ecological corridor is to provide a safe habitat for the bats who like to roost in old trees with loose bark. Bats are extremely vulnerable to predation by rats, possums and cats.
  • Bats have been detected all along the corridor between the maunga and throughout the rural landscape, including on dairy and sheep and beef farms.

Taiea te Taiao Ecological Corridor project


NZ Landcare Trust, farmers, landowners, Waipā District Council, Waikato Regional Council, Ngāti Apakura, Ngāti Korokī Kahukura, Ngāti Hikairo, Pūrekireki Marae, Maungatautari to Pirongia Ecological Corridor Incorporated Society, Pirongia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society and Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust.


Freshwater Initiatives Fund administered by Ministry for the Environment, Waikato River Authority, Waikato Regional Council, Department of Conservation Jobs for Nature, Waikato Catchment Ecological Enhancement Trust, Predator Free New Zealand, Nestle in partnership with Open Country, Fonterra, DairyNZ, Nimbus Media, and Environmental Protection Authority Wai Tuwhera o te Taiao.

A visit to one of the significant pā sites in the ecological corridor, Mātakitaki i ngā Patupaiarehe o runga o Pirongia. From left to right: Hazel Coromandal-Wander (mana whenua representative for Taiea te Taiao), Te Ao o te Rangi Apaapa (Mātauranga Māori facilitator for Taiea te Taiao), Angela Roberts (former MP) and Nardene Berry (regional coordinator - Waikato, North Island Team Leader).

Page last updated:

8 Dec 2023