Western Bay of Plenty District Council's annual Community Matching Fund opens today with $140,000 available for not-for-profit community groups.

Groups that are able to "match" the council's cash grant – in volunteer hours, cash or similar matching criteria can apply. The fund is split into $40,000 for environmental projects and $100,000 for the general fund.

Last year the Rotoehu Ecological Trust (RET) was granted $10,000 to expand its pest control programme in Pongakawa to protect the endangered kōkako.

The council's community relationships environment officer, Glenn Ayo, said the trust was a great example of an organisation that fitted the fund's criteria.

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The trust helped local Department of Conservation (DoC) staff with management of the forest and the kōkako.

Chairwoman Sarah Orton says the kōkako is considered the keystone species of the Rotoehu Forest. The trust works on the principle that if this taonga is protected and allowed to flourish, other flora and fauna will also thrive.

"As with many of our threatened bird species, most people have never seen a kōkako," Orton said.

Western Bay of Plenty District Council's community relationships environment officer Glenn Ayo capturing and banding a kōkako. Photo / Supplied
Western Bay of Plenty District Council's community relationships environment officer Glenn Ayo capturing and banding a kōkako. Photo / Supplied

"It comes as a surprise to learn that in the hills south of Pongakawa we have one of the country's most important places for conservation of a rare and extraordinary bird."

The latest 2019 kōkako census of 1200ha of the Rotoehu Forest found 133 pairs and eight singles (274 kōkako), of which 126 pairs and all singles were within the managed area.

In 2013 the census covered only 601ha and found 50 pairs and 29 singles (129 birds total). The 2019 census has doubled the area and the kōkako.

Applications for this year's Community Matching Fund open from April 29 to May 29. For more information visit the council's website.