A pledge of $100,000 in the coming year rising to $1 million over five years for Northland conservation projects could be a ''game-changer'' for the region's kiwi.

The cash boost will come from a $2 donation from every Princess Cruises passenger visiting the Bay of Islands, starting this cruise season.

It is part of the company's Princess Local Partnerships and aims to encourage the return of kiwi and other native species to areas visited by its ships.

The company plans to work with Kiwi Coast, which supports 120 volunteer pest-control groups across Northland, and Bay Bush Action, which is restoring Opua State Forest.

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It will also support the roll-out of a conservation programme called Te Waka Kaitiaki Whenua, founded by Paihia's Stella Schmid, to schools across Northland.

Princess Cruises representatives first met Schmid, who offers bush walks through her business Papatūānuku Earth Mother Tours, when they were working with hapū to set up a Māori market at Waitangi's Te Tii Marae.

Conservation educator and guide Stella Schmid with freshly caught rats in a pest control area near Paihia. Photo / supplied
Conservation educator and guide Stella Schmid with freshly caught rats in a pest control area near Paihia. Photo / supplied

That initial contact led the company to other conservation groups and education programmes such as Project Island Song's Floating Classroom.

Schmid said Te Waka Kaitiaki Whenua was currently in 29 schools but she hoped to get it into every school between Whangārei and the Cape.

"I want to get this message to as many children and adults throughout our country as possible, and get as many people as we can on board our waka."

Bay Bush Action trustee Brad Windust said the funding could be a "game changer" in bringing back the forest's mauri (life force).

"We've managed to trap 250ha, one-tenth of the forest, and we've seen a massive change in that area, but at the same time it's really sad watching the rest of the forest die."

Currently the trust's work was done by volunteers but the funding could pay for a full-time trapper and replacing old traps.

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"When we started in 2011 we had no kiwi. Now we have five pairs and if we can increase our trapping area we hope their numbers can go up exponentially," Windust said.

Kiwi Coast Mid North co-ordinator Andrew Mentor with an injured kiwi awaiting vet treatment. Photo / supplied
Kiwi Coast Mid North co-ordinator Andrew Mentor with an injured kiwi awaiting vet treatment. Photo / supplied

Andrew Mentor, Kiwi Coast co-ordinator for the Mid North, said extra funding could allow more intensive pest trapping in areas where kiwi were already present and the expansion of trapping into new areas.

Princess Cruises' Asia-Pacific senior vice-president Stuart Allison said the company came to New Zealand more than any other destination in the region, so it made sense to start its local partnerships programme here.

In future passengers could be offered shore excursions to conservation projects such as tree planting.

Windust said Princess Cruise passengers were keen to see native wildlife so the partnership could benefit all involved.

"New Zealand doesn't have amazing cathedrals or temples but we do have amazing wildlife that's unique in the world," he said.

Fourteen Princess Cruises ships are expected to visit the Bay of Islands in the 2019-20 season. Photo / file
Fourteen Princess Cruises ships are expected to visit the Bay of Islands in the 2019-20 season. Photo / file

The cruise industry was sometimes criticised for its environmental impact but it was trying to be more environmentally friendly.

"This is one way they can achieve that. We hope every business big and small looks at ways they can help."

■ Go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5ND1tHORSw to watch a video which will be played on every Princess Cruises ship visiting the Bay of Islands.