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by Rachael Comer

Peel Forest residents are joining forces to protect the forest.
A meeting will be held at the Peel Forest Hall on Saturday to form an incorporated society aimed at protecting the forest from introduced pests.
Meeting organiser Hilary Iles said Peel Forest residents had been concerned for “quite a while” and it was time to get together to come up with ways to protect the 783ha of natural forest.
“I have been the instigator of getting the meeting and a group going,” Mrs Iles said.
“Nothing has ever been done before and the locals have been quite concerned for quite a while.”
The main concern was that pests were destroying the forest’s native flora and fauna, she said.
“Stoats, rats, mice, possums and wild cats are all destroying the forest.”
Residents of the Blandswood area of the forest had been setting traps in an attempt to slow down the damage.
“It’s about the whole of Peel Forest though. We want to protect it.”
Residents had also been working with the Department of Conversation (Doc) on trapping work, and the new group, to be named Project Peel, would seek funding for plant and animal pest control to support the work that Doc was doing, she said.

Hilary Iles
Hilary Iles

“Peel Forest is one of a kind in that it has large remaining podocarp trees, including the Mills Bush 16ha of virgin forest and a variety of Canterbury foothill forest habitats,” Mrs Iles said.
“Project Peel would be looking at ultimately protecting the whole of Peel Forest Scenic Reserve, which includes Clarke Flat, Te Wanahu Flat, Dennistoun Bush and Little Mt Peel.”
Peel Forest was the only place where trees of such magnitude remained, she said.
“It’s a unique place and very important.
“Blandswood residents have had some initial meetings with Doc and they are very supportive of us.”
Mrs Iles encouraged South Canterbury residents to attend the meeting, not just those living in Peel Forest.
Saturday’s meeting would be a chance for people to learn some “fascinating facts” about Peel Forest, including why it was important and how it had managed to survive.
Attending the meeting would also be to “register your interest in helping this amazing forest”.
“We want to seek funding to be able to contract experts to do a lot of the specialist eradication work at the forest.
“We are looking for people who would like to be involved in this project – it does not matter where you live.”

PEEL FOREST – AT A GLANCE

  • The three largest trees in Peel Forest belong to the Podocarpaceae family, which goes back more than 100 million years.
  • Peel Forest has a graduation of vegetation from mature forest to exposed tussock and herb-field communities.
  • The forest is predominantly podocarp and broadleaf rain forest.
  • The forest supports a wide variety of wildlife, including at least 10 species of native bird.
  • An interesting inhabitant of the forest is the peripatus, or walking worm. These small creatures are considered to be the evolutionary link between segmented worms and insects, and have remained unchanged for about 570 million years.