Four Northland brown kiwi — Ellis, Rimu, Judy and Kaha — were released into their natural habitat near Hukerenui last week by farmers leading the Tanekaha-Hukerenui Kiwi Community Project.

Judy Imeson said she was thrilled to have the birds released on her property. She had been part of the Tanekaha Community Pest Control Group for past seven years, having decided, after kiwi were confirmed as living on the farm, that she had to do something to help them.

"Carrying out pest control and looking after the kiwi has become part of our normal farm management, but I never thought our farm would become a place where kiwi would be released," she said.

She also hosted a public kiwi release event on her farm on Tuesday evening to give people the chance for a close encounter with the three females and one male before they were released into prepared burrows.

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Guests were reminded that pests would take 95 per cent of kiwi chicks within 12 months of hatching in unmanaged areas, while dogs had helped to reduce the average lifespan of Northland kiwi from 60 years to 13.

Todd Hamilton, from Backyard Kiwi, who led the release, emphasised two key factors to ensuring kiwi numbers kept rising in areas like Tanekaha.

"It's simple — trap the predators, like stoats and ferrets, and tie up your dogs. Don't let them wander," he said.

"Northland kiwi sleep during the day in some unexpected places, like pampas, tall grass and amongst gorse. You just never know where a kiwi may be."

The birds were all graduates from the Matakohe-Limestone Island kiwi crèche in Whangarei Harbour. The male, Ellis, had been there for more than seven years, eluding recapture for longer than most.

Despite being the oldest by six years, at 1.7kg he was dwarfed by the three young females, which weighed in at around 2kg and still had some growing to do.

Female Northland brown kiwi can weigh more than 3kg when fully grown.

Judy said she was keen to keep kiwi numbers on her farm growing, and believed it was a good time to extend the managed area, and involve more land owners.

"I'm also part of a new project getting under way with Hukerenui farmers. This will border the Tanekaha Community Pest Control area, and we will work together to create an expanded area of pest control and ensure the kiwi can roam safely where they wish," she said.

"Our new pest control area is being funded for five years by the Northland Regional Council, which is a huge boost. Embarking on a second project, and being able to welcome four more kiwi to the farm, is just amazing. It's a huge validation of all our hard work over many years, and it's great to have got to this point."

Regional councillor Joce Yeoman said she was very pleased to see another community pest control agreement (CPCA) in place.

"It's fantastic to see what a small group of dedicated land owners can do to increase kiwi numbers, and I'm thrilled that our new regional pest management rate is contributing to more community pest control areas around the region," she said.

"Our goal as a council is to eradicate pests from Northland, but this will only happen if we support our communities doing the work on the ground. The Tanekaha group is one example of just what can be achieved."

Kiwi Coast co-ordinator Ngaire Sullivan said the new CPCA represented "yet another" Northland community taking up the challenge to control predators and help their kiwi thrive, and plugged a gap between the Whangarei Kiwi Sanctuary and the Tanekaha CPCA.
"Linking three kiwi areas together with pest control will really help these very special birds thrive and allow the population to expand further," she said.

Anyone wanting to know more about the next kiwi release, or how to start a community kiwi care group, can contact Ngaire Sullivan at ngaire@kiwicoast.org.nz