Dairy farmer Jane Hutchings not only looks after 700 cows on her "beautiful farm" just out of Kerikeri, she also keeps a watchful eye on our national icon.

Hutchings is a passionate defender of the kiwi which reside in the 180 hectares of bush and pasture around her picturesque property overlooking the Bay of Islands.

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"We always knew we had kiwi" she told The Country's Rowena Duncum.


"It wasn't until a really bad drought in 2009 that we started seeing kiwi coming out on the paddocks looking for food and water and we thought, we've got to do something to protect them".

With the help of the Kiwi Foundation and the Regional Council, Hutchings formed a community pest control area with her neighbours, which grew to a land care area.

"With the regional council's help we got given traps and bait stations and education on what to do and we began trapping for the main predators of kiwi, as well as trapping possums and rats for the health of our bush".

There are now stoat traps throughout the farm as well as live-capture traps for feral cats.

Hutchings was surprised by what she caught over the years and how it had improved the land.

Kiwi chicks are at risk from stoats. Photo / Tania Whyte
Kiwi chicks are at risk from stoats. Photo / Tania Whyte

"Just from doing the possum and rat control the health of our bush is amazing. The seedlings that come up now - because rats aren't eating the seeds".

Kiwi numbers have also improved.

"We do a kiwi calling census once a year for four nights and the numbers are going up because we've taken out the stoats and the cats.


Stoats have a devastating impact on baby kiwi numbers. They kill 95 per cent "which is a huge death rate" said Hutchings.

However, the main killer of adult kiwi in New Zealand is dogs.

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Unfortunately many people were unaware that kiwi are "basically in your back yard" especially around Kerikeri she said.

"You just can't have your dog's off loose. A kiwi has no breastbone, so if a dog even mouths it or picks up one the kiwi will probably die of internal injuries".

The New Zealand average age for a kiwi should be around 40 to 50 years said Hutchings, but dogs were impacting the life expectancy of Northland kiwi.

"In Northland the average age is 15, and that's mainly [from] dog kill".

Jane and Roger Hutchings. Photo / Supplied
Jane and Roger Hutchings. Photo / Supplied

Hutchings wasn't always so rurally focused, saying she was a "total townie" before she met her husband Roger at Lincoln University.

"I went there to do horticulture and ended up marrying a farmer, so yeah, [I] became a dairy farmer".

Now she is determined to share "the knowledge" of kiwi conservation, whether through teaching local women how to trap possums, or raising awareness of our national bird's plight through the Kiwi Coast Trust.

"I've become a trustee on the Kiwi Coast Trust which is a group that link all the land care and predator control groups up the coast of Northland, so that we can make a safe corridor for kiwi to travel from basically south of Whangarei right up to Cape Brett".

October is Save the Kiwi month, which Hutchings raised money for by auctioning off a few nights' stay on "a little hidden hut in our bush".

She said she was happy to expand her conservation efforts.

"I love sharing the knowledge, it's a passion so I just love telling a good story, telling everyone that just a little bit will help and get everyone keen and involved".

Follow Jane Hutchings on Twitter here.