A kiwi wandering into a hotel room and penguins nesting by the pool are signs that pest control is starting to pay off, a Treaty Grounds boss says.
A guest at the Copthorne Hotel and Resort in Waitangi was woken at 1.30am last Wednesday by a rustling noise under his bed.
Suspecting it was a possum that had come in through the open ranchslider he called hotel staff for assistance and discovered the intruder was in fact a kiwi.
The startled bird ran into the bathroom, where it skidded around on the tiles, before they eventually managed to coax it outside.
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The hotel is built on land leased from the Waitangi National Trust, which earlier this year ramped up pest control operations on the 500ha estate.
Chief executive Greg McManus said he hoped the kiwi's hotel room visit was a sign the estate was becoming safer for the national bird.
''We're putting a lot of effort, time and money into predator control, in particular against stoats. Our aim is to make all Waitangi National Trust land predator-free as soon as possible.''
That goal had been boosted by ''really significant'' donations, totalling tens of thousands of dollars, which had allowed the trust to buy the latest self-setting pest traps.
Other wildlife at Waitangi included little blue penguins, which had started using nesting boxes along the Treaty Grounds shoreline and were even nesting in the Copthorne's pool area, McManus said.
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The man tasked with dealing to the Treaty Grounds' predators, Brad Windust of Paihia, said he was reluctant to take on the job at first because he already had a lot of work.
''But I couldn't say no because it's such a special place,'' he said.
Windust's vision for the Treaty Grounds is ambitious but, he maintains, do-able.
''I hope to get kiwi probing around the flagpole again, like they used to, and birdsong to drown out the brass band on Waitangi Day.''
He is currently trapping for stoats, possums, rats and feral cats. His arsenal includes 26 AT220 traps which are powered by a rechargeable battery and can re-bait and re-set themselves up to 100 times.
The automated traps had been developed by ''a couple of old guys'' in a Napier shed and had caught 239 possums and 48 rats since August without human intervention.
''I'm really proud the trust has stepped it up. They've invested a lot of money in the latest technology in trapping. Trappers have been waiting for something like this [the AT220] for a long time.''
In a recent survey Windust found three pairs of kiwi and one single male on the Waitangi estate, which was also home to spoonbills and one of the country's biggest shag colonies.
The real gem, however, was a little-known 140ha wetland, which was nationally significant for its size and variety of wetland types. It was prime habitat for rare birds, especially the bittern, whose population had plummeted in past year. Now the bittern was ''on the knife edge of extinction'' with fewer than 1000 left, Windust said.