Princess Cruises has pledged to contribute $100,000 over the coming year, rising to $1 million over five years, towards for Northland conservation projects.
The company will give $2 for every Princess Cruises passenger who visits the Bay of Islands, starting this season, as part of its local partnerships programme, aimed at encouraging the return of kiwi and other native species to areas visited by its ships.
The company plans to work with Kiwi Coast, which supports 120 volunteer pest control groups across Northland, and Bay Bush Action, which is restoring Ōpua State Forest. It will also support the roll-out of the conservation programme Te Waka Kaitiaki Whenua, founded by Paihia's Stella Schmid, to schools across Northland.
Princess Cruises representatives first met Ms Schmid, who offers bush walks through her business Papatūānuku Earth Mother Tours, when they were working with hapū to set up a Māori market at Waitangi's Te Tii Marae.
That led the company to other conservation groups and education programmes, such as Project Island Song's Floating Classroom.
Ms Schmid said Te Waka Kaitiaki Whenua was currently in 29 schools, but she hoped to get it into every school from Whangārei north.
"I want to get this message to as many children and adults throughout our country as possible, and get as many people as we can on board our waka," she said.
Meanwhile Bay Bush Action trustee Brad Windust said the funding, which could pay for a full-time trapper and replacing old traps, could be a game-changer in bringing back the forest's mauri (life force).
"We've managed to trap 250ha, one-tenth of the forest, and we've seen a massive change in that area, but at the same time it's really sad watching the rest of the forest die," he said.
"When we started in 2011 we had no kiwi.
"Now we have five pairs, and if we can increase our trapping area we hope their numbers can go up exponentially."
Andrew Mentor, Kiwi Coast co-ordinator for the Mid North, said extra funding could allow more intensive pest trapping in areas where kiwi were already present and the expansion of trapping into new areas.
Princess Cruises' Asia-Pacific senior vice-president Stuart Allison said the company came to New Zealand more than any other destination in the region, so it made sense to start its local partnerships programme here.
In future passengers could be offered shore excursions to conservation projects such as tree planting.
Mr Windust said Princess Cruise passengers were keen to see native wildlife, so the partnership could benefit all involved.
"New Zealand doesn't have amazing cathedrals or temples, but we do have amazing wildlife that's unique in the world," he added.
■Go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5ND1tHORSw to see a video that will be played on every Princess Cruises ship visiting the Bay of Islands.