A Hawke's Bay conservation project has had a record-breaking season's haul of kiwi eggs.
The Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust has delivered 94 viable kiwi eggs from the 2021/2022 egg-lifting season to the National Kiwi Hatchery in Rotorua.
The Maungataniwha Kiwi Project is part of Operation Nest Egg and since 2006 has hatched and released more than 400 kiwis back into the wild.
Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust staff member Barry Crene said he expects they will well surpass the 500 kiwi milestone this year with up to 94 kiwi releases upcoming.
He said they have had an incredible year for kiwi laying and hatching which he attributes to the kiwi having easy pickings for food.
"We had a damp spring which keeps the vertebrates and worms up high because as soon as we have a drought, all of the bugs follow the moisture down."
"They had a really good breeding season and they were good condition birds. It's like sheep, you've got to have good ewes when you put the ram out or some of them don't come into season."
He said they released 53 kiwi in the previous year due to the very dry spring.
This number came from 63 viable eggs, the previous greatest number the Trust had lifted at that point.
There are 62 tagged kiwi at Maungataniwha, part of a self-sustaining kiwi population.
Juveniles sourced from eggs will go to stock their second property, Pohokura, mid-way between Taupō and Napier.
He said the biggest challenge and the biggest threat to kiwis were predators.
"Stoats with young kiwis, ferrets with adults. A lot of it is human too, humans make a lot of mistakes. Dogs with people, I don't think enough have been trained for kiwi aversion."
The Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust was founded and is chaired by Simon Hall, owner of Kiwi food company Tasti.
He has a goal to establish a population of about 100 pairs of Eastern Brown kiwi within five years at Pohokura.
"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 co-ordinator for Save the Kiwi Tamsin Ward-Smith said the Maungataniwha Kiwi Project is the largest of its kind in the eastern region of North Island brown kiwi.
She said there was a number of dedicated people working on various projects to save eastern brown kiwi and increase their numbers, but they were just holding the line.