Iwi conservationist of the year and a good egg - two Northland kiwi conservation leaders have been recognised at the 2019 Kiwi Awards.

The awards, held at the annual National Kiwi Hui in Hawke's Bay last week, recognise those dedicated to saving our national icon.

At the awards the Tohu Mana Tiaki – Iwi conservationist of the Year award went to Stella Schmid, from Bay Bush Action, based in Opua.

The Good Egg - Northland Brown kiwi – award went to Marj Cox of Mahinepua Radar Hill Landcare Group, in Kaeo.

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The Iwi conservationist of the Year award recognises leadership in kaitiakitanga practices within conservation management that support kaupapa kiwi.

Schmid grew up in the Waitangi Forest and her childhood involved not just playing in the forest but caring for it. At age 4 she was regularly accompanying her uncle – who worked for the then Waitangi Forestry Service – to spend days in the forest developing a love of the natural world.

From her uncle she learnt valuable lessons on how important wildlife is, especially endemic and native species.

Schmid joined fellow conservationist Brad Windust, as a founding trustees of Bay Bush Action, which aims to reduce pest numbers and reintroduce species that have become extinct in the Opua Forest. With more than 2000 traps across 500ha area in Opua Forest she spends most of her days in the forest co-ordinating the trap lines and managing Bay Bush Action's forest management programme.

Her unswerving passion for kiwi and the natural environment was recently demonstrated by her leading the organisation of a hugely successful Kiwi Conservation Festival held in the Bay of Islands last December which attracted all of the conservationists in the Far North. It shone the light on conservation efforts in the region with kiwi and other native fauna and flora.

Schmid was also instrumental in developing Ngahere Toa, a group of children who help with trapping and learning about the forest's ecosystem.

As well as her role with Bay Bush Action, she runs her own tour guiding business, where visitors from all corners of the world are taken on a guided tour through Opua Forest, to learn how Māori traditionally used the forest and the huge stress the ecosystem is under due to the introduction of foreign species.

Schmid has also created an education programme Te Waka Kaitiaki Whenua, where her goal is to visit all schools from the top of the north to as far as she can go...the message she shares with the children is what is happening in our forests and how can we work together to fix it.

"Bay Bush Action Trust is not just part of my life… it is my life," Schmid said.

Marj Cox of Mahinepua Radar Hill Landcare Group, in Kaeo has been named the winner of the Good Egg - Northland Brown kiwi - award at the 2019 Kiwi Awards.
Marj Cox of Mahinepua Radar Hill Landcare Group, in Kaeo has been named the winner of the Good Egg - Northland Brown kiwi - award at the 2019 Kiwi Awards.

''Good egg'' Cox joined Mahinepua Radar Hill Landcare Group very soon after it started in 2002 as secretary. Her role is a crucial one to the success of the project.

"While everyone wants to be in the field, hands-on with kiwi, there is so much paperwork to do and someone's got to do it," she said.

Her role involves administration, maintaining management agreements, permits, funding applications, health and safety requirements and more. She has gone above and beyond the call of duty to ensure all documentation is done and processes are running smoothly for the eight-strong working members of the group.

Being a Far North kiwi conservation group the Mahinepua Radar Hill Landcare Group is lucky to have "kiwi in their backyards" but the challenge is to keep them safe and their habitats predator-free.

A big part of the group's role is trapping and helping neighbouring landowners to set up their own trap lines to create kiwi corridors, enabling the free flow of kiwi, safely.

"With kiwi living across the region it's a matter of joining the dots so they can travel beyond our own borders safely. We all need to know how to protect them," Cox said.

She has put in a lot of hours over the years but she also points out that there are some other groups in the Far North that have been going longer and she believes her Good Egg Award should be shared with the rest of the local kiwi conservation community.

The awards were created by Kiwis for kiwi, an independent charity that supports hundreds of volunteers and private landowners all over the country in their work to protect kiwi and their natural habitat.

Executive director of Kiwis for kiwi, Michelle Impey, said the awards were created to acknowledge and thank the kiwi conservation projects, organisations and individuals who have contributed significantly to kiwi conservation.