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Waipoua Forest in Northland is New Zealand's largest sub-tropical rainforest; a unique environment with giant kauri trees up to 3,000 years old at the centre of its ecology; an environment rich in biodiversity in which endangered species flourish.
The road through the forest passes by some splendid huge kauris. Turn off to the Forest Lookout just after you enter the park - it was once a fire lookout and offers a spectacular view.
A little further north, the Park Visitor Centre has plenty of information and excellent exhibits on kauri trees, native birds and wildlife. Here you can pick up a brochure on the Park which tells the full story of the trees.
Several huge trees are easily reached from the road. Te Matua Ngahere the 'Father of the Forest', has a trunk over five metres in diameter. Several huge trees are easily reached from the road. Te Matua Ngahere the 'Father of the Forest', has a trunk over five metres in diameter, believed to be the widest girth of any kauri tree in New Zealand. This massive tree is a short drive then a 10-minute walk from the main road. Close by are the Four Sisters, a graceful collection of four tall trees in close proximity. Also near Te Matua Ngahere is the Phantom Tree, believed to be the second largest in the forest.
The world's largest rainforest tree, Tane Mahuta, "Lord of the Forest", stands guard over Waipoua and has become an icon of New Zealand's unique natural heritage. At the time of Christ, Tane Mahuta was already a mature tree. It had seen 1000 years of history before man colonised New Zealand, the last major land mass to be inhabited by humans. It knew the ancient world of the moa, giant eagle and huia.
Kauri forest contains an abundance of other plant types including large trees like taraie, kohekohe, kowhai and northern rata. Beneath the forest canopy, the understorey and shrub layers can be equally diverse. Underneath mature kauri, tall dense stands of kauri grass and gahnia are prevalent. mairehau, hangehange, neinei, kiekie and ferns are also common.
The forests of Waipoua are vitally important refuges for threatened wildlife. The endangered North Island kokako is found in high, wet plateau country, but the small population is vulnerable to predation, and competition with possums. Waipoua may well contain the biggest remaining population of North Island brown kiwi, with numbers reaching into the thousands. The native forest parrots, kakariki and kaka are occasionally seen but are no longer common.
More abundant is the NZ Pigeon (or kukupa) which plays a vital role spreading the seeds of many plants. Fantail, pied tit, tui, grey warbler, shining cuckoo and kingfisher are also fairly common.