Good keen dog proves a kiwi's best friend

By Tony Gee

A specially trained sniffer dog has found a large, mature brown kiwi living in bush about to be cleared on a Far North road construction site.

Maggie, a trained kiwi-spotting dog, found the female bird during a daily site search carried out as part of consent condition requirements for construction of a new Kerikeri bypass.

Contractors are building a 1.6km road across the Kerikeri River to link with Waipapa Rd and take traffic away from the historic Kerikeri Basin and Stone Store heritage area.

The $14 million project carries a Far North District Council consent requirement that any kiwi in the area should be found and moved away as earthworks progress.

District council roading manager Greg Ingham said a kiwi dog searches bush areas of the bypass route every morning before work starts.

The requirement paid off last week when Department of Conservation biodiversity assets ranger Steve McManus found the kiwi alive and well while working with Maggie on the south side of the Kerikeri River.

The bird was taken to the New Zealand Kiwi Foundation at the nearby Aroha Island Ecological Centre and then released into a predator-free location in the Upper Kerikeri River catchment where she can find a mate and breed.

Kiwi Foundation convener Dr Greg Blunden said it was pleasing to find a kiwi in such good condition and it confirmed that kiwi were living close to people, houses and pets.

"There are likely to be still more kiwi in the eucalyptus forest adjacent to the town. "This must be the only town in New Zealand with kiwi still in the wild just a few hundred metres from the town centre," Dr Blunden said.

He urged dog owners to keep their dogs on a lead and said Kerikeri had a real asset in kiwi.

Mr Ingham said finding the kiwi was a highlight for all involved with the bypass project and more may yet be found.

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