A Horizons Regional Council biodiversity grant will pay the cost of returning one of New Zealand's smallest and cutest birds to Bushy Park Tarapuruhi.
The forest sanctuary 25km from Whanganui was given two Kanorau Koiora Taketake -Indigenous Biodiversity Grants, one of $20,289 to move titipounamu/riflemen back into the predator-fenced sanctuary, and another of $13,740 to continue turning 4ha of former paddock into forest.
"It's just awesome. It means we can move forward confidently with both those projects. I'm delighted," sanctuary manager Mandy Brooke said.
The titipounamu translocation project dates to the sanctuary's reintroduction plan made in 2018. The tiny (6g) birds would once have lived there but habitat clearance and predators have dispersed them into mountain forests in the North Island.
The grant will pay reintroduction specialist Kevin Parker and his team to move the birds. The sanctuary is part-way through the process of getting a permit from the Department of Conservation.
Consultation would have to be done at the places where the birds were taken. They needed to be close because titipounamu could not be held in captivity for long, Brooke said.
The reintroduction of pōpōkatea/whiteheads is likely to happen first because it is further advanced. Local iwi Ngā Rauru Kiitahi has a partnership in the sanctuary and would prefer those birds to come from its rohe.
The second grant would speed up the transformation of a former paddock into forest, Brooke said. It started last year, with plants sourced from the sanctuary, along with tree lucerne and smaller species like harakeke for the edges.
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The money will build a shadehouse with benches for potting up and more space for school groups and volunteers. It will also pay for a part-time contractor to weed and maintain the plantings.
The area being revegetated was given the name Te Akatea ki Kāpiti by Ngā Rauru, because Kāpiti Island can be seen from it.
Horizons also funded almost all the sanctuary's regular annual work of fence maintenance, track work and monitoring, Brooke said. Her salary was paid by Forest & Bird and she was helped by volunteers.