Volunteers in a small Hawke's Bay community have built a $700,000 aviary to help protect one of the nation's most endangered birds.
The survival of New Zealand's critically endangered shore plover (tuturuatu) is another step closer following the official opening today of the Kotahi Aviary at Cape Kidnappers.
The facility is built in partnership with Kotahi, the country's largest export supply chain collaboration, Cape Sanctuary, a significant wildlife restoration programme at Cape Kidnappers, and Department of Conservation. It uses a mesh made specifically for aviaries and becomes New Zealand's third shore plover captive breeding facility.
Cape Sanctuary co-founder Andy Lowe said that with a total population of only 240 birds, the survival of the shore plover relies on biosecurity, captive breeding and predator free islands.
"It is fantastic to be part of a long-term partnership with the Department of Conservation and Kotahi to save a shore bird that will become extinct if we don't invest in active breeding and release programmes.
"It is our philosophy to develop long-standing partnerships with businesses, iwi and the Department of Conservation to restore native bird life for our future generations to experience native species in their natural habitat.
"In time, we will include New Zealand's iconic blue duck (whio) in the Kotahi Aviary. The river beside the aviary provides a natural resource for this nationally vulnerable species that risks extinction with a population of less than 3000," he said.
The Kotahi Aviary design mimics basic elements of shore plover habitat in the wild such as stones, shallow running water and planting. The aviary size of 11m x 80m will allow capacity for up to five breeding pairs and their juvenile birds until release.
Each season, the adjacent brooder house will allow for the incubation and hatching of two to three additional clutches (two to four eggs per clutch) per breeding pair.
Department of Conservation Director General, Lou Sanson opened the facility yesterday and said the Kotahi and Cape Sanctuary partnership was an excellent example of business taking an initiative to protect New Zealand's natural environment.
"Shore plover are at a critical point with the only sustainable, in-the-wild population being on the Chatham Islands. The work being done here supports DoC to achieve its species recovery goals.
"With the added risk of avian pox more recently, a new facility such as this one will support population build while minimising the risk of having limited captive facilities."
Kotahi chief executive David Ross said the company was proud to support Cape Sanctuary and the Department of Conservation in a committed effort to help save shore plover for generations of New Zealanders.
"This is what makes our country unique.
"Through collaborative partnerships that scale up the impact of conservation efforts, New Zealand companies can ensure that our iconic species and landscapes are protected and regenerated."
The first shore plover breeding pair is due for settlement into the Kotahi Aviary within the next four months.
Public access to the site would be by appointment only with a guide.