Kiwi have returned to land in Whangārei thanks to the dedicated efforts of the local community.
Taheke Landcare released 10 kiwi into its 2000 hectare predator controlled area at Tahere, on the way to Pataua North, on Saturday.
"This kiwi release is a significant milestone that the community has been working towards for a long time. It has been a huge collaborative effort and will require ongoing commitment from the community," Arwen Page from Taheke Landcare said.
Since 2013 Taheke Landcare has been working hard clearing out the pests and building a community of committed dog owners, keen to restore a local wild kiwi population.
The 10 kiwi released were just the beginning and over the next three years, 20 kiwi will be released to revitalise the local kiwi population that has dwindled to the last one or two birds.
"Sustained pest control, and the community's commitment to excellent dog control will ensure the kiwi can thrive at Tahere for generations to come," Department of Conservation (DoC), Kaitiaki-Kanorau Koiora Biodiversity Ranger, Ayla Wiles said.
The kiwi entranced the 252 people who gathered to see the wild kiwi up close for a few moments before they were released on Saturday.
The Glenbervie School Kapa Haka group supported the speakers with waiata as the crowd learnt about kiwi, how to keep them safe and the work of the Taheke Landcare Group that had enabled them to return kiwi to the area.
Three kiwi were shown at the event, including Tiki, a 2kg female, and Toa, a 1.6kg male - both island-hatched young adults with more growing to do.
The third kiwi – Takoha was a fully grown 13-year-old 3kg female hatched in Te rohe ō Ngāti Hine and then transferred as a chick by DoC to the Motuora Island pest-free kiwi creche in Te-Moana-Nui-o-Toi.
Motuora Island is managed by DoC for the Ngāti Manuhiri Settlement Trust, which is the mana whenua and mandated authority of the island.
Kaimahi of the Manuhiri Kaitiaki Charitable Trust accompanied 12 accredited kiwi handlers and assistants from Taheke Landcare, DoC, Kiwi Coast, and Northland Regional Council (NRC), travelling to the island to catch the kiwi on Friday.
The team worked throughout the night catching the birds and preparing them for release the next day, fitting small radio transmitters to their legs so their wellbeing and movements could be monitored.
As the kiwi departed for Tahere, Te Kaurinui from Ngati Koroa/Te Waiariki/Ngati Wai initiated a karakia to prepare the kiwi for their journey to their new home.
Taheke Landcare Group formed in 2013 to work with NRC and Kiwi Coast to initiate pest control over about 2000ha. This involved the coordinated and cooperative involvement of the local community. The pest control has continued ever since, and the local native forests and wildlife have flourished as a result.
With 2000ha of predator-controlled area to roam, the kiwi will be closely monitored by trained locals using radio tracking equipment as they explore their new home at Tahere.
However, there won't be much concern if the new arrivals wander out of the Tahere area, as they are surrounded by like-minded neighbouring communities and forestry companies at Pataua North, Whareora, Ngunguru, and Glenbervie.
Collectively working together as the 'Kiwi Link Community Pest Control Area', their predator control network extends over 14,000ha between Parua Bay and Tutukaka in eastern Whangārei.
"Together we are helping the community-led projects from Bream Head to Whananaki connect, infill and expand their trapping networks so they can link up into one giant predator controlled network. These kiwi should be safe to roam and enjoy long lives in the safe hands of their local communities," Kiwi Coast Coordinator Ngaire Sullivan said.
"We're also tracking the natural return of kaka and korimako from the offshore islands to the area, with hopes that their numbers will also increase in response to extensive pest control being carried out by the communities".
Some kiwi facts
There are around 50,000 kiwi in New Zealand, with many of them on protected islands or in reserves.
There are five species of recognised kiwi and all are found only in New Zealand.
Stoats and cats kill 95 per cent of kiwi chicks before they are 6 months old.
Adult kiwi are often killed by ferrets and dogs.
The kiwi is related to the ostrich, the emu and the now-extinct moa.
The kiwi has one of the largest egg-to-body weight ratios of any bird - the egg averages 15 per cent of the female's body weight.
Kiwis live in pairs and mate for life, sometimes as long as 30 years.
An average of 27 kiwi are killed by predators every week. That's a population decline of around 1400 kiwi every year (or 2 per cent). At this rate, kiwi may disappear from the mainland in our lifetime. Just 100 years ago, kiwi numbered in the millions.
A single roaming dog can wipe out an entire kiwi population in a matter of days
About 20 per cent of the kiwi population is under management.
In areas under where predators are controlled, 50-60 per cent of chicks survive. When areas are not under management 95 per cent of kiwi die before reaching breeding age.
Only 20 survival rate of kiwi chicks is needed for the population to increase.