Two rare pāteke (brown teal) ducks can now call Rotorua and Rainbow Springs their home.

Rainbow Springs, a Ngāi Tahu Tourism company, was thrilled to welcome the new breeding pair to the nature park on Tuesday.

The pair have come from the Department of Conservation (DOC) National Captive Breeding programme.

They were flown up from Peacock Springs in Canterbury by Air New Zealand with the hope they would settle into the nature park and eventually breed.

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Air New Zealand is a national partner with the Department of Conservation and sponsors the transports of New Zealand's most endangered species as part of active recovery programmes.

Pāteke ducks are native to New Zealand and are a taonga species that hold a special cultural significance to Ngāi Tahu.

Kelly-Anne Banks, Rainbow Springs assistant husbandry manager for the wildlife team, says having the two pāteke released at the park is exciting.

The birds are housed in a large aviary that they will share with tui and kererū.

She says they have been working towards this for a long time, including digging out the ground and putting bush into the aviary - "Now it feels unreal having them here".

"Hopefully they will do really well in here and produce us some babies."

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The two pāteke have their first swim in their new home. Photo/Shauni James
The two pāteke have their first swim in their new home. Photo/Shauni James

Kevin Evans, Pāteke Recovery Group captive and reintroduction co-ordinator says pāteke ducks have gone from being highly endangered to recovering, but are still not out of the woods.

In numbers, they got down to as low as about 700 and are now back up to 2500 to 3000.

He says pāteke ducks are endemic to New Zealand, highly territorial, will protect their territories from any other species, and form pair bonds.

Like all native species, predators such as stoats and cats are threats, Kevin says.

Lisa Tumahai, Kaiwhakahaere of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu says the protection of taonga species was an important part of Te Kerēme, the Ngāi Tahu claim.

"Caring for the pāteke at Rainbow Springs will help protect our toanga species and that should be celebrated.

"Across all our businesses we have a strong conservation focus as we take our kaitiaki role very seriously."

David Hennigan, business manager at Rainbow Springs says they saw an opportunity to play their part to help this native species survive and were thrilled to be in a position to offer the pair a new home.

"Pāteke aren't known to most New Zealanders, with kiwi and other better known species often taking the limelight, so it's great that we'll be introducing these quirky little guys to our visitors."

DOC's Pāteke Captive Breeding Programme has successfully released more than two thousand pāteke into the wild since 2003.