Northland's Muslim community is overwhelmed with the honour of having six of the latest kiwi released into a Northland forest named after the youngest victims of the Christchurch Mosque terror attacks.
The success of releasing kiwi into a forest reserve in Whangārei has seen another 12 birds set free in the Pukenui Western Hills Forest to help set up a sustainable breeding colony close to the city.
A dozen kiwi were released into the forest on Saturday after the success of the first kiwi release there in March last year, when 12 kiwi adapted well to their new surrounds; so well that two chicks have hatched since.
Six of the kiwi are named after the six youngest people killed in the Christchurch terrorist attacks - Mucaad Adan Ibrahim, 3, Sayyad Milne, 14, Muhammad Haziq Tarmizi, 17, Hamza Khaled Mustafa, 16, Talha Naeem Rashid, 21, and Tariq Rasheed Omar, 25.
Members of Northland's Muslim community were on hand for the release and Imam Suhil Musa blessed the birds at Hurupaki School before they were released into the forest.
Northland Muslim Community Charitable Trust treasurer Shirley Rankin said it was a huge honour to have the birds named after the youngest victims of the attacks.
''This is just massive for our community. To name them after those youngest victims is yet another example of the inclusiveness we have felt (since the March 15 terror attacks),'' Rankin said.
''They were also kiwis too and it's such an honour to have these national treasures, these taonga named after them. The spontaneity of it all has been amazing. They (Pukenui Western Hills Forest Trust) said it was a spontaneous idea so checked with the people (in Christchurch) if it was appropriate, which is most respectful,''
She said the names of the young terror attack victims would now live on and the kiwi bearing their names will go on to produce more of the country's endangered birds.
''That's just a wonderful thought. And it was so amazing to see and touch the kiwi before they were released.''
Pukenui Western Hills Forest Trust chairwoman Tanya Cook said the latest release was fantastic as it showed that the trust's work was a success.
''We have proven that you can have a kiwi population thriving so close to the city. It's amazing,'' Cook said.
''It's really rewarding for all those involved and shows that we have great support from the community for this work. It's great that the kiwi are thriving and breeding and just shows the success of the earlier release.''
The Department of Conservation gave its backing for a series of releases of about 40 birds over three years and Cook said 16 more birds being released over the next year or two would provide a self-sustaining kiwi population in the forest.
Pukenui Western Hills Forest Trust member Richard Shepherd said hapu Ngati Kahu o Torongare in conjunction with Ngati Hine considered naming some of the birds as a way of remembering the youngest victims.
"From my point of view there was a lot of sadness that everyone was feeling and we were thinking how we could acknowledge that. Naming six of the birds was a way to do that."
Shepherd contacted Police Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha, who fronted the police liaison team with the Muslim community in the days after the attack, and had the request to name the kiwi approved by the Muslim community leaders.
"A lot of people are still feeling the pain and they will for a long time to come. By naming the kiwi we are saying the spirit of these young people will always be remembered," Shepherd said.