A national plan to turn the decline of New Zealand's national bird into an increase has been launched today.
Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage, who marked the new effort to save all species of kiwi with a release on Mt Taranaki today, said the Government would beef up predator control and management to help build up of 100,000 birds by 2030.
The current population stood somewhere around 70,000 – but an average 27 kiwi were being killed each week, driving a decline of around 1400 birds every year.
"Right now, kiwi are declining at a rate of two per cent per year, mainly due to predation by stoats, dogs and ferrets," Sage said.
The Kiwi Recovery Plan, for 2018 to 2028, was the first aiming to reverse this loss across all species.
Since 2000, declines have been turned around for the four rarest - rowi, Haast tokoeka, Coromandel brown kiwi and little spotted kiwi - but reduced for others.
But fewer than a quarter of New Zealand kiwi live in places where predators are controlled.
More than three-quarters of kiwi do not have this level of protection, so many populations continued to decline.
"Without protection, only five per cent of our kiwi chicks survive predation by stoats," Sage said.
"This means kiwi populations are in decline in most areas."
The plan's biggest challenge would be to control predators at landscape-scale – or across hundreds of thousands of hectares – to arrest the loss of great spotted kiwi and tokoeka in the South Island particularly.
Across all kiwi species, the proportion of each population under active management varied greatly, but generally, the smaller the percentage under active management.
The species with the largest number of birds under active management was the Northland brown – an estimated 4075 kiwi, nearly half of its population.
That with the smallest number actively managed is the Rakiura (Stewart Island) tokoeka – with just 250 birds out of an estimated population of 12,300.
Still, the size of individual kiwi populations wasn't precisely known because there wasn't yet a cost-effective way to count kiwi.
Along with using intensive and extensive predator control, new Kiwi Recovery Plan aimed to get to the 2030 goal by protecting the genetic diversity of kiwi through science and careful management, supporting iwi and community efforts, and managing the threat of dogs – one of their biggest killers.
"Kiwis may not be able to fly but we'd all love to see their population take flight so our national bird is around for many years to come," Sage said.
The Government had already invested more than $81 million over the next four years to beat back predators.
It built on work by the previous National-led government, which included an $11.2 million bag of rescue money in 2015's Budget to go toward the extra funds needed to save kiwi.
The national charity Kiwis for Kiwi had been striving to meet the shortfall by raising funds to help community conservation projects.
Its own national strategy, launched last year, focused on boosting the number of kiwi chicks in predator-free creches, where they could safely grow and start reproducing, so their young could be moved to other predator-free areas to start new populations.
Its chairman, Sir Rob Fenwick, described it as like "setting up an endowment fund for kiwi".