Natural Environment

Natural EnvironmentNatural Environment Indicators (what we measure)


The stunning natural environmentOur ‘Natural Environment’ means our native ecosystems, such as wetlands, lakes, bush, forests and geothermal areas. It includes both the physical and biological components of natural areas.

Before human settlement, the district was covered in indigenous vegetation. The Kopuatai Peat Dome made up the majority of this vegetation. It stretched from the Hauraki Gulf to Matamata and from the Kaimai Ranges to the Western Ranges. The Matamata-Piako natural environment contains outstanding natural features; in some cases, these are of national and international significance.

  • The Kaimai Ranges are considered to be the most outstanding natural feature in the district.
  • The Hinuera Valley is an important regional feature due to its rarity and landscape features.
  • The Kopuatai Peat Dome is the only true peat/dome/restaid bog remaining intact in New Zealand. As well as the largest remaining freshwater wetland left in the North Island, it is the best example of its kind in New Zealand. It supports a vegetation type that is internationally unique.

Our Pressures

The stunning natural environmentThe primary activity affecting our natural environment is changes in land use such as land drainage, bush clearing, subdivision and development.

The health of our native plants and animals is also threatened by predation and competition from introduced species. 69 regional plant pests and 35 animal species to be managed were identified in the Waikato Regional Pest Management Plan 2014-2024. The Plan includes five groupings of plant pests, and a table of animal pests that hold a production, environmental or public threat. The Waikato Regional Council will directly control and manage some pests and will provide advice and assistance for others.

Plant pests include Manchurian wild rice (particularly in the Piako and Waihou rivers), Noongoora bur, and the Water poppy. Moth plant, Nodding thistle and Pampas are also significant plant pests in the district. Some of the animal pests damaging our natural environment include possums, feral goats, feral cats and mustelids such as ferrets and stoats.


Our Situation

Koputai Peat Dome

In 2017/18 native vegetation made up 11.8% (20,786 ha) of the Matamata-Piako District, of which 19,475 ha is held within the Department of Conservation Estate. Council owns and manages around 12.6 hectares. The largest area of Council-owned and fenced reserve is Hawes Bush, which has an area of 2.2 hectares.

Within Matamata-Piako, the Kaimai Forest Park makes up an area of 14,670 hectares, and the Kopuatai Peat Dome an area of 5,313 hectares (approximately one third of the Dome is within Matamata-Piako). There are 5911 hectares of peat soil in the district. The Te Tapui Reserve comprises 2370 hectares. There are 338 hectares within Matamata-Piako that are protected by covenants from the Queen Elizabeth II Trust.

Activities within the Kaitaiki Zone

A small number of resource consents are applied for to carry out activities within the Kaitiaki (Conservation) Zone each year. This shows development is generally occurring in conjunction with existing land use, facilities and zoning, rather than in areas with conservation values.

There were three resource consents granted in 2017/18 for activities in the Kaitiaki Zone: these were for the construction of a weir on the Piako River, the construction of a back country hut and vegetation clearing and for road embankment earthworks. There were 6 consents granted in 2016/17 for activities in the Kaitiaki Zone. Two related to the harvesting of plantation forestry and two others related to earthworks near, and the construction of a jetty on, Lake Karapiro. There were 3 consents granted in 2015/16 for activities in the Kaitiaki Zone. These were for the construction of a dwelling, the extension of the Hauraki Rail Trail and assorted work including channel excavation and remediation work on the Tui mine site.


Resource Consents granted in the Kaitiaki Zone 08/09 09/10 10/11 11/12 12/13 13/14 14/15 15/16 16/17 17/18
Number of consents 1 0 1 5 4 1 0 3 6 3


Protection of Natural Resources

In the 2005 Operative District Plan, Council listed outcomes they wished to achieve relating to protecting and enhancing the natural resources within the district. Significant steps have already been taken towards meeting these outcomes.

In 2012/13 two subdivision consents were granted with conditions requiring the protection in perpetuity of areas of native vegetation, amounting to an area of 8,200m². There were no similar consents granted in 2013/14. There were two consents granted in 2014/15. Both had conditions requiring effluent systems to have specific engineering designs. No consents have been granted since.

In 2006 Council worked with an ecologist to determine significant native vegetation. 667 units of habitat totaling 3,111 hectares were surveyed, resulting in 23% of this area (721 hectares) being considered significant. Of the total area surveyed, 78% was determined to be indigenous (predominantly native species), 20% exotic (mainly non-native species) and 2% was not determined. These significant features include native indigenous vegetation, such as native tree stands, areas of bush and wetlands. Native fauna also exist in significant areas.

 There are a number of rare or threatened species that are still considered to be living within the district. These include:


Threatened Species


Where you might see them


North Island Brown Kiwi

North Island Kokako

NZ Falcon


Australasian Bittern

Branded Rail

Marsh Crake

North Island Fern Bird

Kaimai/Mamaku Ranges



Kopuatai Peat Dome




Striped Skink

Kaimai/Mamaku Ranges

Hochsetters Frog

Kaimai/Mamaku Ranges

Both Short and long tailed bat

Kaimai/Mamaku Ranges

Giant Kokopu

Banded Kokopu

Black Mudfish

Kaimai/Mamaku Ranges

Kopuatai Peat Dome


Te Aroha Stag Beetle

Kaimai/Mamaku Ranges

Stout Milfoil

Scarlet Mistletoe

Red Mistletoe

King Fern

Kaimai/Mamaku Ranges


Kopuatai Peat Dome

Giant Wire Rush

Kopuatai Peat Dome

These rare or threatened species are present in the above locations, but may also be present in other, smaller, areas in our district.

The Condition of Our Native Vegetation

As part of the identification of areas of significant native vegetation within the district the condition of the vegetation was also assessed. Vegetation units were given a rating between 1 (very poor condition) and 5 (excellent condition). The average condition was 2.36. Only 6 of the 667 units of vegetation surveyed were considered to be in an excellent condition.

 In 1840, 95% of the district was covered in native vegetation; this figure is now 15%, most of which is in the Kaimai ranges. Through provisions of the District Plan, Council is attempting to manage the natural environment; this includes zoning and putting methods in place for the protection of areas of significance.

The maps below show the historic (around 1840, on the left) and current (right) extent of native forest, scrub and tussock in the Waikato Region.


Change in forest and scrub 

From the 2013 Waikato Regional Perception Survey, 73.5 per cent of respondents in the Matamata-Piako District were satisfied with ‘community treatment of your district’s natural assets’.



In 2006 Council approved the introduction of funding rounds, allowing landowners and community groups to apply for financial assistance to undertake projects such as fencing significant sites and controlling pests. Landowners who have a significant natural feature on their land can also apply for rates remissions. Funding rounds occur once a year around September. To establish this process, Council has worked with numerous organisations and people including Federated Farmers, Department of Conservation and individual farmers. Two areas along a stream on Council-owned land in Te Aroha were fenced off and native plants were planted between the stream and the fence in both 2014/15 and 2015/16. Council is happy to provide an ecologist to survey potentially significant sites that have not already been visited within the district. Please contact Customer Services to discuss this opportunity.

What Else is Happening

Council is aware of three landcare groups operating in Matamata-Piako that are taking measures to benefit waterways and their margins. The Mangawara Landcare Group and the Morrinsville Landcare Group aim to improve environmental health by protecting river margins and increasing biodiversity by planting and fencing streams and bush remnants. The Kaimai Mamaku Catchments Forum has representation from iwi, recreational groups, primary industry and conservation groups and aims to restore forest biodiversity, enhance recreational activities and provide for sustainable land use across the entire Kaimai-Mamaku area, straddling several territorial boundaries. There are several other initiatives with a focus on waterway rehabilitation.

See Riparian Management for more information about these groups.

The Matamata-Piako District Council also contributes to the general landscape of the district through tree planting programmes such as Arbor Day. From the Arbor Day celebrations held in 2011/12, 186 children attended from eight schools and planted trees at the Howarth Memorial Wetland in Te Aroha, Howie Park in Morrinsville and Furness Reserve in Matamata.

What You Can Do To Help

  • Protect your vegetation by fencing and controlling pests and weeds
  • Become involved in initiatives such as tree planting and associated conservation programmes
  • Become involved in landcare groups

You may be eligible for funding to protect biodiversity. Check out the Ministry for the Environment website, the Waikato Regional Council’s Clean Streams Website, or contact Council to discuss the Significant Natural Features annual funding round.

How are we Doing?

Anticipated Environmental Results

Natural Environment


  • AchievingAchieving
  • Progress towards achievementProgress towards achievement
  • Not AchieveingNot Achieving
  • Not MonitoredNot Monitored
Protection in perpetuity of outstanding natural features and resources Progress towards  achievement
Greater public awareness and support for protection of the natural environment Progress towards  achievement
To permanently protect significant examples of specimen trees and stands of native bush or trees Progress towards  achievement - Achieving
Reduction in the risk of serious or irreparable damage being done to trees through lack of knowledge or undue haste Progress towards  achievement
To achieve permanent protection and sustainability of the Kopuatai Peat Dome and other important wetland areas
Protection Achieving
Sustainability Not Monitored
Other important wetlands Not Monitored

Click here to learn more about District Plan Effectiveness and read the full report on Natural Environment

Useful Links

For more information on landscape types, plant and animal pests, soils see;

Matamata-Piako State of the Environment Report 1999

Waikato Regional Council’s Land and Soil Indicators

Department of Conservation

For More Information

Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or
Customer Services
Matamata-Piako District Council
PO Box 266, Te Aroha 3342
Phone: 07 884 0060
Fax: 07 884 8865