Conservation groups on the central east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula are marking a major success, with confirmation of a kiwi population in a scenic reserve in the settlements of Matarangi and Kuaotunu.
Representatives from Project Kiwi and Rings Beach Wetland Group spent several consecutive nights in the reserve through June conducting audio monitoring for kiwi calls – essentially sitting quietly and recording kiwi calls, noting time, sex, distance and direction of the calls between 6pm and 8pm.
Dave Fitzgerald, the secretary of Rings Beach Wetland Group, said the confirmation of the kiwi was the culmination of a long period of commitment and work by volunteers and supporters.
"We're really excited – it's very encouraging. It really shows the efforts of a number of people over many years is really paying off."
He was involved in the monitoring and said the number of calls gradually increased over the course of the monitoring – with female birds heard responding to their male counterparts on the second night.
"We're presuming there are at least two breeding pairs in there," Fitzgerald said.
"We noticed on one night an old pine tree stump which had been heavily carved at by kiwi, and kiwi droppings around that – they'd been looking for insects."
Project Kiwi spokeswoman Paula Williams said the confirmation kiwi were in the reserve was significant on numerous levels.
"It shows the reserve is suitable habitat for kiwi and kiwi have arrived of their own volition," she said.
"We will conduct surveys in this reserve over the next two years to collect baseline data, but my expectation is the data will show birds are living in the reserve, not passing through."
Williams said the strong likelihood breeding pairs were among the reserve's kiwi population was a particularly positive sign.
"Breeding pairs also tell us the habitat is good enough in terms of year-round water supply and food source for a pair to inhabit and raise chicks. Pairs also help anchor a population, so it is likely the reserve will retain some of its wandering juvenile kiwi and the population will self-seed.
"Breeding pairs mean baby chicks and present us with the knowledge and the challenge to provide a level of predator control where they will flourish and go on to breed too," she says.
The reserve's new status as a habitat for the national bird would connect the Kuaotunu and Whangapoua Forest kiwi populations, Williams said.
Chris Twemlow, a ranger with the Department of Conservation's Coromandel District, said the confirmation of kiwi in the reserve demonstrated the value of community groups' conservation effort.
"Conservation volunteers put in a huge amount of work and make contributions the wider public doesn't always see.
"We're delighted to see such a great result as this illustrates the power of sustained collaborative effort."
People can find out how to support the work of the Rings Beach Wetland group by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org.