Taheke Landcare released 10 kiwi into its 2000ha predator-controlled area at Tahere, east of Whangārei, on April 17, achieving what Arwen Page described as a significant milestone that the community had been working towards for a long time. It had been a huge collaborative effort, and would require ongoing commitment from the community.
Taheke Landcare had been working hard since 2013 to eradicate pests and build a community of committed dog owners, keen to restore a local wild kiwi population.
The 10 birds released this month were just the beginning. Twenty more would be released over the next three years to revitalise the population that had dwindled to just one or two birds.
Department of Conservation Kaitiaki-Kanorau Koiora Biodiversity Ranger Ayla Wiles said sustained pest control, and the community's commitment to excellent dog control, would ensure that the kiwi could thrive at Tahere for generations to come.
The kiwi entranced the more than 250 people who gathered to see them for a few moments before they were released, the Glenbervie School kapa haka group supporting the speakers with waiata as the crowd learned about kiwi, how to keep them safe, and the work of the Taheke Landcare Group that had enabled them to return kiwi to the area.
Three kiwi were shown. Tiki, a 2kg female, and Toa, a 1.6kg male, had more growing to do, but Takoha was a fully-grown 13-year-old, 3kg female hatched at Te rohe ō Ngāti Hine and then transferred as a chick by DOC to the Motuora Island pest-free kiwi creche in Te-Moana-Nui-o-Toi. Motuora Island is managed by DOC for the Ngāti Manuhiri Settlement Trust, the mana whenua and mandated authority of the island.
The Manuhiri Kaitiaki Charitable Trust is the Resource Management Unit for the Ngāti Manuhiri Settlement Trust, and facilitates cultural and environmental services.
Engagement with mana whenua has been an integral part of the translocation process, the mahi not being possible without the advice and support of the original stewards of the land.
Kaimahi of the Manuhiri Kaitiaki Charitable Trust accompanied 12 accredited kiwi handlers and assistants from Taheke Landcare, DOC, Kiwi Coast and the Northland Regional Council who travelled to the island to catch the kiwi, working throughout the night and preparing them for release the next day, fitting small radio transmitters to their legs so their wellbeing and movements could be monitored after release.
As the kiwi departed for Tahere, Te Kaurinui, from Ngati Koroa/Te Waiariki/Ngati Wai, offered a karakia to prepare them for their journey to their new home.
The Taheke Landcare Group was formed in 2013 to work with the Northland Regional Council and Kiwi Coast to initiate pest control over approximately 2000ha, with the co-ordinated and co-operative involvement of the local community. Pest control has continued ever since, and the native forests and wildlife have flourished as a result.
With 2000ha of predator-controlled area to roam, the kiwi will be closely monitored by trained locals using radio tracking equipment. There won't be much concern if the new arrivals wander out of the Tahere area, however, as they are surrounded by like-minded neighbouring communities and forestry companies at Pataua North, Whareora, Ngunguru and Glenbervie. Working together as the Kiwi Link Community Pest Control Area, their predator control network extends over 14,000ha between Parua Bay and Tutukaka.
Funding and support from Kiwi Coast, the Northland Regional Council and DOC has helped the communities build the pest control network, revitalise the native forests and wildlife, and now reach the point where kiwi can be safely returned.
"Together we are helping the community-led projects from Bream Head to Whananaki connect, infill and expand their trapping networks so they can link up into one giant predator controlled network," Kiwi Coast co-ordinator Ngaire Sullivan said.
"These kiwi should be safe to roam and enjoy long lives in the safe hands of their local communities.
"We're also tracking the natural return of kaka and korimako from the offshore islands to the area, with hopes that their numbers will also increase in response to extensive pest control being carried out by the communities."
Meanwhile the Taheke Landcare Kiwi Release committee expressed its thanks to all those who helped make the kiwi release possible, including those who had funded and resourced work to date, including the regional council, Kiwi Coast, the QEII National Trust, DOC and Hancock Forest Managers.
Support, sponsorship and generous donations were also received from businesses and individuals with connections to the area. Huanui College ran a mufti day fundraiser and Farmlands supplied sausages for the release event. Sponsors included Marine Industrial Design, in association with Babcock New Zealand, DJ Scott & Associates, Erika and Iggy Hagen, Heather Taylor and Trevor Bullock, the Irvine Family, Ian and Sandy Page, Kelly and Krystina Smith, Sergeant Builders, and Wendy Forshaw, of Ray White.
Glenbervie School's rousing waiata had been a very special feature of the release event.
To get involved in Taheke Landcare, or to find out how to look after local kiwi, contact Ngaire Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org