Since 2006 the Mangataniwha Kiwi Project has been successfully raising and releasing kiwi chicks into the wild, and recently well-known Hawke's Bay conservation specialist Tamsin Ward-Smith joined these efforts.

While she had worked with the Hawke's Bay-based Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust for many years in another capacity, she said it was a privilege to now be working directly with trust chairman Simon Hall and his team.

"I do feel very fortunate to be doing for a living something that I am so passionate about."

Ward-Smith's brief included overseeing the development of chicks that hatched from eggs collected at the trust's property in the Maungataniwha Native Forest, and working with the predator-proof sanctuaries where they were raised until they were large enough to be released back into the forest.

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With the number of kiwi chicks being incubated and sent to predator-proof sanctuaries for rearing increasing all around the North Island, it was becoming increasingly difficult to find safe places for these chicks to grow.

The trust's Maungataniwha Kiwi Project was becoming one of the most prolific and successful kiwi conservation initiatives in the country, and as the number of chicks it produced continued to increase, Ward-Smith would ensure they were all looked after well until they could be released into the wild.

"There is a good deal of micro-management involved," she said.

"It can be particularly tough for chicks that are crèched from early December through until January, when conditions are dry and food hard to find. Some chicks may need supplementary feeding with food drops, huhu grubs or worms, or some may even need to return to captivity for a bit longer.

"It will be my job to manage this for Maungataniwha chicks, wherever they are being crèched, until they're large enough to be taken back home to the forest."

In anticipation of even more chicks out of the Maungataniwha Kiwi Project, the Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust had been working with Napier City Council to increase the chick capacity of the council-owned kiwi rearing facilities at Westshore Wildlife Reserve.

An additional 22 outdoor kiwi runs were being built there with trust funding and Ward-Smith hoped this would ease some of the pressure across the North Island for safe nursery places.

Some Maungataniwha chicks incubated at Kiwi Encounter at Rainbow Springs were now also being reared there.

Ward-Smith was also the eastern region brown kiwi co-ordinator for Kiwis for Kiwi, the only national charity dedicated to protecting kiwi.

In this role she helped to co-ordinate the catching of males for Operation Nest Egg, the nationwide incubation and release scheme, and she was also involved with setting up 'kohanga' sites where the species could be reintroduced safely and effectively.

Since 2006 more than 250 birds from Maungataniwha had been returned to the wild.