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DOC Kiwi Removals Facing Opposition

31 MARCH 2014

DOC Kiwi Removals Facing Opposition

Citing conflicting statements from DoC on kiwi population health and the agency’s failure to gain proper iwi approvals, Coromandel conservation groups are seeking to halt DoC kiwi translocation from the top of the peninsula and are questioning department management strategies that directly affect the species locally.

DoC plans to initially relocate 10 brown kiwi from Mt Moehau to Motutapu in the Hauraki Gulf, with highly publicised corporate sponsorship by global drug and pesticide manufacturer Bayer, in a move they say will improve the long-term outlook for the species. Additional removals totaling 50 birds are planned on the peninsula.

The Upper Coromandel Landcare Association (UCLA), which is opposing kiwi removals from the mountain, says DoC statements on population health are contradictory and unreliable. The group is demanding definitive independent research on kiwi numbers and population dynamics on Moehau to guide management strategies, including any further translocations.

UCLA points to a positive 2007 assessment by DOC’s Hauraki area manager that claimed more than 70 percent kiwi survival rates on Moehau. That report stated, “The simple recipe of predator trapping and hard work on the hill has produced this exceptional result.” DoC reported kiwi numbers were increasing at a rate of 15 percent per year and were far below carrying capacity.

However, according to UCLA spokesperson Reihana Robinson, one Coromandel iwi group was recently told the kiwi population on Moehau is declining. “DoC can’t have it both ways,” she said. “First they say the kiwi population is healthy with more than 300 adult pairs and growing, yet iwi being lobbied for support of the translocation plan by DoC are being told the population is dropping.” According to Robinson, an independent surveyor of Moehau kiwi calls recently told her group, “No one really knows how many birds are on Moehau.”

UCLA is also disputing DoC claims that the “Coromandel brown kiwi” is a distinct taxonomic unit that requires island relocation to survive. “Whether such marginal genetic distinction is of any significance and whether inbreeding will contribute in any meaningful way survival is highly questionable,” Robinson said. “The fact is no one at DoC can say what the so-called genomic difference actually is. In fact, they say, taxonomic status has yet to be formally determined.”

According to Robinson, DoC has also failed to obtain proper and appropriate permissions for the translocation programme. “When requested, Doc could provide only two written confirmation of iwi support, while claiming they had other so-called ‘verbal’ approvals from unnamed representatives on what DoC says were ‘unknown’ exact dates,” she said.

“Of even greater concern, UCLA has been advised by a Te Arawa iwi spokesperson that, ‘As far as we're aware "NO" such permission has been granted from Te Arawa Iwi to DOC for the translocation of kiwi from Moehau to Motutapu’.” Moehau is the sacred resting place of the Arawa chief Tama te Kapua.

UCLA says the agency is engaged in an image-burnishing public relations exercise reflecting its new direction and focus on marketing opportunities with corporates -- at the expense of the mountain’s resident kiwi population.

“We are seriously concerned DoC is mismanaging our iconic bird here on the Coromandel,” Robinson said. “If kiwi are in fact on the decline since 2007, it should be noted this is when the use of toxin 1080 started on Moehau’s eastern flank. In 2013, an aerial drop blanketed the entire mountain for the first time, and the poison is known to put juvenile kiwi at risk. DoC should leave the kiwi in peace, and the agency should continue the hard work of stoat trapping on our maunga.” says Robinson.

The removal of kiwi from Moehau is also opposed by Coromandel conservation group Manu Waiata and the Thames Landcare Association.

© Scoop Media

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