It was a day for new beginnings and a tearful reunion.

One kiwi chick brought an Auckland mother and her Perth- based son together to make lifetime memories last week - closing the gap between New Zealand and Australia.
This was not just any bird, but the 200th chick reared by Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust (LFR) returned to the wilderness at Maungataniwha Native Forest, inland from Hawke's Bay.

He was named Tanekaha (strong man) by Lynda Holswich, through a Facebook competition organised by the trust's primary sponsor Tasti, asking followers with offspring overseas to suggest a fitting
title which also honoured their children.

With help from a colleague who was recently diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, she selected the Maori phrase connoting strength.


As winner she was flown to the scheduled sanctuary by helicopter to release Tanekaha - but wasn't told eldest son Aaron would be there to meet her.
"Oh my God," was all Lynda could manage through tears, as he stepped out from behind a shed.

The pair shared a special bond but had been separated by ocean, minus the odd holiday, since Aaron moved to Australia about 20 years ago.

"He's my first born and he's always been my right hand man, always," she said. "For many years he was the father of my household."

Tanekaha was incubated at Kiwi Encounter in Rotorua and reared in a predator-free area at Cape Sanctuary.

He followed predecessor Takamoana - the project's 100th chick, who was released by LFR Trust patron Rachel Hunter in 2012.

This time the honour fell to an everyday New Zealander who described the experience as "out of this world".

"The whole thing from the time I hopped into the helicopter ... to the time I got here, to my son being here and holding that kiwi," Lynda said.

There was also extensive work to regenerate native flora and fauna across the 4000ha property which was until recently under pine.

"It does it makes you feel a Kiwi being involved in this whole release of a kiwi," Aaron added. "It's fantastic stuff, so neat to see what they've done around here ... I'm just proud to be a Kiwi."

The Kiwi Project is part of Operation Nest Egg which is fast making a name for itself as one of the most prolific and successful conservation initiatives in New Zealand.

Since it began in 2006, 360 eggs have been harvested and 200 chicks released back into their natural habitat - 160 of which ended up at Maungataniwha.

Fully-fledged chicks had about 70 per cent chance of survival - a stark contrast
with the 5 per cent opportunity they had of making it to adulthood if hatched in the bush and left unprotected against predators.

Population modelling suggested 200 kiwi had to be reintroduced to the area to ensure a secure population for the next 30 years.

"We purchased the property and soon afterwards we discovered there was a resident population of kiwi here, we estimated as low as 40 pairs, we had to decide 'what are we going to do about it?'," LFR Trust Chairman Simon Hall said.

"We started this project in conjunction with Cape Kidnappers [it] ensured survival of kiwi here and provided the founding kiwi for Cape Kidnappers."

He was delighted with the success so far and said the trust would continue the good work to protect the kiwi.