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First kiwi transfer earmarked for Saturday morning

Thursday 5 October
Media Statement

First kiwi transfer into any of the five new kiwi sanctuaries is earmarked for Saturday morning

Conservation Minister Sandra Lee says the first transfer into any of the five new kiwi sanctuaries announced in this year's Budget will take place tomorrow (Saturday 7 October) at Whangarei’s Bream Head scenic reserve.

She says a group of North Island brown kiwi will be accompanied from Motuora Island by Ngati Wai kaumatua and kuia. The Maori elders will bless five birds in a special ceremony at the scenic reserve in the morning before the kiwis are released into their burrows by students from two local schools.

“The Whangarei Kiwi Sanctuary is in one of five areas in New Zealand where a sanctuary is being established for kiwi protection, " said Ms Lee. "Similar facilities are being set up in Coromandel, the Tongariro Forest, Okarito and Haast."

She said these five areas are the beneficiaries of a special $10 million fund for kiwi protection, allocated from the $187m approved in this year's Budget to fund implementation of the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy Budget over the next five years. This extra funding will complement and enhance the work presently being done through the Bank of New Zealand-sponsored Kiwi Recovery Programme.

Ms Lee said the North Island brown kiwi was not only the most common kiwi species but also the one declining at the most alarming rate due to the effects of dogs, cats, and mustelids (such as stoats and ferrets) as well as habitat loss.

The Whangarei transfer also signals a major step forward for the ecological restoration of Bream Head with some aspects of the work being funded via the Government’s Biodiversity funding package. The Bank of New Zealand-sponsored Kiwi Recovery Programme is also contributing towards that project.

Ms Lee said the North Island brown kiwi were incubated at Auckland Zoo and then transferred to Motuora Island off the Northland coast until they reached a size believed to be big enough to defend themselves against predators like stoats and cats.

"Work has already begun on a kiwi inventory in Coromandel in preparation for a new kiwi sanctuary there, with 60 of more than 80 sites visited, " Ms Lee said.
"Of more than 70 North Island brown kiwi already identified in the Coromandel, 52 are known to be males." Ms Lee said a major share of the $547,700 allocated for the Coromandel Kiwi Sanctuary would be spent on predator control.

The Conservation Minister has also announced that a predator control programme will be used to help protect New Zealand’s rarest kiwi, the Okarito brown, or rowi. She says Biodiversity Strategy funding will be used to manage a 10,000 ha area of South Okarito Forest to protect an estimated remnant population of only about 200 birds.

“Rowi are the rarest of our kiwi and now they have a real chance of survival inside their natural habitat,” Ms Lee said.

The Department of Conservation is also using the Biodiversity Strategy funding to boost the monitoring programme at Okarito, using miniature radio transmitters to track breeding pairs and new-born chicks. Ms Lee said that the increased funding would double current monitoring, bringing the number of birds monitored to 30 chicks and 50 pairs.

The Government's biodiversity funding will also help unravel some of the mysteries surrounding a unique kiwi found at Haast in South Westland, according to the Conservation Minister.

Ms Lee says the largest kiwi sanctuary occupies an area of 18,000 ha, protecting around 150 of the critically endangered Haast tokoeka (a Ngai Tahu name which means ‘weka with a walking stick’).

She says little is known about this kiwi and the funding means that extra staff will be employed to help survey and monitor the tokoeka and then decide how much help they will need to ensure their continued survival.

"This is going to unravel one of the most elusive wildlife mysteries in the world and at the same time ensure that this beautiful and rare icon is given a real future," Ms Lee said.

She said intensive management within these five sanctuaries will help to halt the current rate of decline of kiwi on the mainland, which could otherwise see them extinct within a lifetime.

“Active partnerships with Bank of New Zealand and Forest and Bird through the Kiwi Recovery Programme are helping to ensure kiwi populations are retained on the mainland, "Ms Lee said.

"These new sanctuaries include many more opportunities for DOC to work in partnership with tangata whenua, private landowners and communities, to enable more New Zealanders to hear or see their national bird in its natural habitat.”

Media Contacts
Northland release:
Wanda Vivequin, Department of Conservation, Whangarei, 09 430 2465
or 025 277 1030

National Kiwi Recovery Programme:
Hugh Robertson, Department of Conservation, Wellington, 04 471 3274
or 025 837 052; res: 04 473 8211

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