The Whareora Hall, near Whangārei, was packed with 225 keen fans eager to see two wild kiwi up close before their release near Pataua North.
The kiwi were named Donald and Ariki by the Whareora Landcare Group earlier this month.
"Donald is named after the Donaldson family, one of the original settler families who have lived and farmed in Whareora area for over 100 years,'' said Ngaire Tyson, one of the group's founding members and Kiwi Coast co-ordinator.
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''Sue Walters [nee Donaldson] is the current chairperson of our group, so it was also a nice way to honour the work that Sue and her family have put into protecting and restoring the forests and wildlife in our area over the years.
"Ariki means chief or leader. We hope that Ariki will lead his fellow kiwi back into our Whareora forests where our local landowners have been working hard to reduce animal pests and predators to make the area safe for them again."
Sue Walters said that over the last 10 years landowners comprising the Whareora Landcare Group had trapped 16,322 animal pests.
''The result has been amazing with a dramatic increase in birdsong where our forests used to be quiet.
"However, there are very few kiwi left in our area and our ultimate aim is have them flourish here again."
Kiwi handler Todd Hamilton, from the Backyard Kiwi project, helped catch the two birds at dawn at the Matakohe-Limestone Island kiwi creche, introduce them at the public Whareora event, then oversee their release.
"Ariki and Donald are young kiwi that should live for another 50 years, producing a couple of chicks each year – that's a possible 100 kiwi chicks,'' he said.
''However, dogs are fatally attracted to the smell of kiwi and Northland research shows the average lifespan of kiwi has been reduced to just 13 years. Good dog control is essential if we want kiwi to thrive."
Ariki and Donald were released into predator-controlled kahikatea and puriri forest near Pataua North. A late-night check showed they were settling in well. Both have transmitters on their legs so their movements can be tracked.
''Last night Ariki fed for 11.5 hours – he must have been hungry after such a big day. We could also hear him calling from our house which was a real thrill," landcare member Anne Stewart said.
The Whareora Meet a Kiwi event was made possible with funding and support from the Kiwi Coast, Northland Regional Council and Kiwis for Kiwi Trust.