An idyllic, predator-free environment is in store for kiwi living in the Bay of Islands with the 2,500 hectare Russell peninsula being declared a kiwi sanctuary.

Jacqui Knight, chief executive of Enterprise Russell, announced yesterday that the peninsula had been declared a kiwi sanctuary and work was about to start on a fence to keep predators out of the area.

Ms Knight said the peninsula was now virtually free of rats, possums and mustelids, all predators that were putting the country's kiwi population, and other native flora and fauna, at risk.

Extensive poisoning this year had almost wiped out the predators and trapping was now underway to "clear up the rest of them," she said.

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Work on removing the predators from the peninsula was expected to cost about $100,000 this year. Once the work was finished, including the erection of the predator fence, it should cost about $40,000 a year to maintain the sanctuary.

Ms Knight said the exciting project had the backing of the local community, which also had a big part to play in ensuring the success of the plan.

"The locals are right behind this. They are looking at the way they are responsible for controlling their dogs and cats," she said.

Ms Knight said the sanctuary would provide a better future for kiwi and other native species in the area.

Funding for the project had also been provided by the World Wildlife Fund, Department of Conservation, BNZ and the Pacific Development and Conservation Trust.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE