An ambitious plan to bring our national bird back from the brink and super-charge kiwi conservation efforts is being launched today.
In a strategy being announced on the Hauraki Gulf's pest-free Motutapu Island this afternoon, charity Kiwis for kiwi aims to turn the 2 per cent decline rate of kiwi across the country into a 2 per cent increase by 2021.
The mission, drawing on an $11 million Government grant to save the kiwi, would rely on efforts by hundreds of conservation volunteers and private landowners all over the country to trap and poison pest predators.
Today, only an estimated 68,000 kiwi remain in a country once home to millions; researchers estimate that the population stood at about 100,000 when it first became apparent several decades ago that our bird was on a fast-track to extinction.
Some species remain more threatened than others, but emergency conservation efforts have helped pull the most endangered - including rowi and Haast tokoeka, now numbering in their hundreds - back from the brink of extinction.
The Kiwis for kiwi effort works in step with the Department of Conservation's own decade-long kiwi recovery plan, which has a goal to lift the total kiwi population back to 100,000 by 2030.
By then, DOC wants populations rebuilt to 35,400 brown kiwi, 35,000 tokoeka, 2900 little spotted kiwi, 19,900 great spotted kiwi and 900 rowi.
The charity's trust chairman, Sir Rob Fenwick, said his organisation's strategy would increase the number of kiwi chicks in predator-free creches where they could safely grow and start reproducing, so their young could be moved to other predator-free areas to start new populations.
"It's like setting up an endowment fund for kiwi."
For the next five years, Kiwis for kiwi will focus mainly on stocking kohanga sites on the North Island, and on a trapping programme for great spotted kiwi on the South Island as these regional species are more easily accessible and there are a larger number of existing management programmes and community projects.
Read more: Why New Zealand is losing the kiwi
The creches were usually islands or sites enclosed with predator-proof fencing.
It would take 50 years or more for these sites to reach capacity - but Kiwis for kiwi wanted to slash that timeframe down to five to 10 years.
Charity director Michelle Impey said that although the approach wasn't new, the plan was pushing the effort to a new level and bolstering the "supply chain" of new kiwi to sanctuaries.
"Over the next five years we plan on returning 1500 kiwi to these habitats; from that point, we can start relocating the young to create new wild populations."
Although the strategy had a five-year life span, the programmes it initiated would last for decades.
Read more: The real kiwi-savers
"This is a very exciting time for kiwi conservation - we have a solid, achievable strategy that will deliver results and we can bring kiwi back."
Of an $11.2 million Government package budgeted in 2015 to run over four years, $3.5m was allocated to Kiwis for kiwi, which now has to raise $1.3m a year to meet the 2 per cent goal.
The charity was raising the money through corporate sponsorship, public donations and philanthropic giving.