Roger and Jane Hutchings milk 700 pedigree Ayrshire cows on 282ha of pasture. They have also erected more than 30km of fencing to protect a 20ha wetland that is graded 'significant,' and more than 100ha of regenerating to mature native bush.

Mrs Hutchings invites kiwi enthusiasts to follow what's happening on Browncowkiwi.
Okaihau dairy farmers Roger and Jane Hutchings are two of dozens of dairy farmers who, according to Kiwi Coast, are helping achieve the dream of thriving kiwi roaming freely throughout Northland, nurtured and cared for by local people.

Kiwi Coast was established five years ago, building on work done by the Landcare Trust, with Helen Moodie, now DairyNZ's Northland sustainability specialist, providing guidance to people who were keen to look after the kiwi that were increasingly appearing in their backyards.

Backyard Kiwi co-ordinator Todd Hamilton and DairyNZ sustainability specialist Helen Moodie introducing themselves to Georgie, one of more than 900 kiwi that roam freely in the Whangarei pest-controlled area.
Backyard Kiwi co-ordinator Todd Hamilton and DairyNZ sustainability specialist Helen Moodie introducing themselves to Georgie, one of more than 900 kiwi that roam freely in the Whangarei pest-controlled area.

"Kiwi Coast recognises that looking after kiwi is not about locking them up and throwing away the key," she said.


"We have kiwi in our productive landscapes here in Northland, where they're eating the worms and other insects that are prolific in our pastures, and through Kiwi Coast we are growing the kiwi populations by managing their threats."

Co-ordinator Ngaire Tyson said Kiwi Coast was a collaborative initiative involving more than 120 entities. Community-led groups including dairy and other farmers, lifestyle block and other land owners, landcare groups, schools, iwi and hapu made up 105 of those entities, the remainder being Northland agencies and businesses, including forestry companies.

Collectively they looked after almost 150,000ha of land, from the Aupouri Peninsula to Mangawhai Heads, all sharing the vision of creating a corridor of comparative safety for kiwi.

Ms Tyson, who previously worked with Ms Moodie at the Landcare Trust, said the recipe was a simple one — land owner engagement, good pest control and good dog control.
The key predators were stoats, which killed 95 per cent of kiwi chicks before they reach 12 months, but dogs were the biggest threat to adult birds.

Farmers were vital in Northland's kiwi protection work.

"Kiwi Coast has many farmer champions, and when others in the community see our farmers are involved, they want to help too. They say 'We can do this; we can look after our patch.' Their imagination is captured," Ms Tyson said.

And kiwi could do really well on farms.

"Many farmers have fenced off bush, wetlands and stream margins to exclude stock, which helps protect kiwi habitat," she added.


"And farms can also be safe places for kiwi when farmers have good dog control in place."
Mrs Hutchings said having kiwi "our national icon" living and breeding on the farm was inspiring.

"We're blessed that so many people in Northland have the same passion to protect kiwi," she said.

"We always knew there were kiwi on our dairy farm, although rarely sighted. The severe drought in 2009 brought them out of the bush, foraging for food and water. After seeing six kiwi out in the paddock one night we contacted the Kiwi Foundation to get advice on how to help them, not only through the drought, but also long-term."

With support from the Northland Regional Council they pulled together a pest control group of farming neighbours and others in their immediate area, and so the Puketotara Landcare group was formed. The group now protects kiwi in an area covering more than 5000ha, from Kerikeri to Puketi Forest.

"The council provided us with start-up funding, bait stations, traps, toxins and practical advice on how to eradicate the many pests that threaten kiwi, either directly or by competing with them for food.

"Since 2012 we've catalogued what we've exterminated — possums, rats, mice and hedgehogs by the thousands, as well as feral cats, ferrets, stoats, weasels, rabbits, hares, magpies and mynas," she added.

The group also received funding from Kiwis for Kiwis, as well as Fonterra's Grass Roots initiative.

As well as helping protect kiwi, the surrounding bush was flourishing. Other native bird life had increased too, with weka returning, and tomtits, tui and kukupa seen regularly.
Puketotara Landcare's proximity to Kerikeri has inspired an annual Christmas party that helps garner support from lifestyle block owners and urban residents.

"We all know how lucky we all are to have kiwi in our backyards, and many people go away from the party in charge of a few traps," Mrs Hutchings said. "Once dog owners understand the threat to kiwi, they're happy to keep their animals under control too."

Along with pest control, the Kiwi Coast groups monitor their kiwi to gauge the success of their projects. Some have permits to fit transmitters to a handful of breeding males to monitor movement and nesting activity. Almost all groups participate in DoC's annual Northland kiwi call count survey in early winter.

They know their kiwi are doing well and growing in numbers when they hear an increased number of calls each year.

Kiwi Coast and many of the groups involved also have websites and Facebook pages where a range of information is posted, including hints on pest control and details of when and where kiwi are to be released into pest-controlled areas, as well as videos of kiwi filmed with trail cameras and photos of birdlife and bush.

Among the groups linked into Kiwi Coast is Backyard Kiwi, which has been working to protect the birds at Whangarei Heads for 20 years, covering 6000ha of mixed dairy, beef and lifestyle block land. In the last 12 years the group has turned the area into a kiwi stronghold, taking the population from 80 documented birds to more than 900.