It was with a quiet sense of accomplishment that two kiwi were released into the 11,400ha Pohokura Forest.
They were the first of 200 kiwi planned to be released into the forest, as part of an ambitious plan to repopulate a 33,000ha area off the Napier-Taupo Road, with eastern brown kiwi.
Pohokura Forest, which spans 11,400ha, is owned by Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust, which has also being repopulating Maungataniwha Forest. In between is the privately Ngatapa Station, which the trust will also assist in repopulating.
Spokesman for the trust, Peter Heath, said there was a real feeling of quiet accomplishment after Sunday's release.
"Anybody who was anybody in the world of kiwi conservation in Hawke's Bay was there."
Trust members, DoC representatives, as well as tangata whenua and conservationists all attended the ceremony.
The kiwi released were the 300th and 301st kiwi raised at Maungataniwha Forest, called Quiff and Niebla. They are both females, but the plan is to release males into the area shortly.
"It was a really great way to mark both the 300th kiwi, which was a real achievement, and the coming together of the three properties, plus the wildlife to the north and the Māori land to the south," Heath said.
Trust chairman Simon Hall said he hoped establishing a population at Pohokura would help re-populate surrounding areas.
"Just as Maungataniwha can now be the source of kiwi to re-stock Pohokura, so we hope that ultimately Pohokura kiwi will make their way naturally to neighbouring areas such as the Whirinaki Conservation Forest, which is also being made safe for them."
Eastern brown kiwi are one of four sub-groups of the North Island brown kiwi. Of the four subgroups, eastern are the least managed and fastest declining.
Hall said establishing a population of 100 pairs at Pohokura in the next five years would be a major step in the recovery of the species.
The aim is to create a 33,000ha predator controlled area for the kiwi, in Pohokura forest and the two neighbouring pieces of land, Ngatapa Station and the Maungataniwha forest.
A viable population has been established at Maungataniwha as part of the national programme "Operation Nest Egg".
The project is primarily being funded by the trust, with the Regional Council pitching in $11,500 worth of trapping equipment.
While a small number of kiwi already reside in Pohokura, the area has the capacity to hold 500 breeding pairs.
Nationally, the Kiwi Recovery Plan hopes to see New Zealand's kiwi population reach 100,000 by 2030. Currently there are fewer than 70,000, and about 2 per cent of the population is lost each year.