Pistachio, the first kiwi to be bred at Otanewainuku since the kiwi trust was founded has come full circle and been released back into the forest.
The little brown kiwi was hatched in March 2013 after a fertile egg was discovered in Oropi's Otanewainuku Forest by trust volunteers.
The egg was taken to Operation Nest Egg's hatching facility in Rotorua
Pistachio spent her first three years in the predator-free private Warrenheip Creche Sanctuary in the Waikato before she managed to lose her leg transmitter.
The Otanewainuku Kiwi Trust had been trying to locate the little kiwi for more than a year.
She was eventually spotted by monitoring cameras and tracked down by a trust team using conservation dogs on October 27.
Now a healthy 2.24kg female, Pistachio was deemed ready for release into the forest which took place yesterday.
The trust decided to mark the special occasion with a public event at Oropi Hall and Community Centre.
Mr Pendergrast said he was blown away after 300 people turned up to see Pistachio off.
When word went out to the public that they could share in this release, people turned up in numbers that even surprised him, Mr Pendergrast said.
That included a UK-born visitor newly arrived in Tauranga.
Trust members, the Kiwi Team, sponsors, volunteers, and Western Bay of Plenty District Council's Mayor Garry Webber were also there to see Pistachio head off on the next chapter of her life journey.
Mr Pendergrast said for him, the rest of the Otanewainuku Kiwi Trust members and Kiwi Team it was an immense thrill to see all their hard work coming to fruition.
"This is a breakthrough in Otanewainuku's history, particularly as Pistachio was our first egg to be hatched and she has come full circle by heading back into the forest," he said.
"It was fantastic to see all the smiles on people's faces. It's a great experience especially for our younger generation and being part of this historic occasion is something I'm sure lots of people will talk about and share for a long time to come.
Mr Pendergrast said the public release event also offered the team the chance to promote the protection and conservation work of the trust to public.
In the past three years the Western Bay of Plenty District Council had contributed $50,000 for all bird transmitter and tracking equipment and monitoring cameras.
It was this equipment which enabled the discovery of Pistachio's fertile egg in 2013 and her later recapture.
Some facts about Kiwi:
Adults can live from between 40-50 years.
They start breeding at about 2 years old.
Females weigh 2.5kg-3kg
Males weigh 1.8kg-2.2kg
Don't mate for life but are likely to
spend many years with the same mate.
Often remain in the same territory for years.
Source: Otanewainuku Kiwi Trust