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South Westland Kiwi In Trouble

20 June 1999

The Haast kiwi or tokoeka is under threat of extinction, with few birds found in a recent survey, according to Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons.

Speaking to the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society's annual conference in Wellington yesterday, she called on the Government to give the Conservation Department more money to ensure endangered species such as the Haast kiwi survived.

She also expressed disappointment the Government had kept quiet about the decimation of the Haast kiwi, thought to be caused mostly by stoats.

"A pre-Budget announcement of $6 million for stoat control amounts to only $1 million a year, and that's for the whole country," Ms Fitzsimons said. "With so much of our wildlife under threat from predators, that money is just a drop in the bucket."

Last Thursday, CM Research and Porter Novelli NZ issued survey results showing New Zealanders ranked the kiwi as one of this country's top three cultural icons. The Haast kiwi is one of six identified varieties of the bird.

In 1992 the Conservation Department estimated that around 300 Haast kiwi survived and in 1993 it was proved to be genetically different.

"There are fears that because very few Haast kiwi were detected by DoC researchers in the 1998-99 breeding season, their numbers may be down to double figures," Ms Fitzsimons said. "In lowland forest where stoats are more common, Haast kiwi have almost disappeared."

Ms Fitzsimons welcomed recent success with North Island kiwi, especially under "Operation Nest Egg", where chicks are raised for example at Auckland Zoo and returned to North Auckland sites. Also the Okarito Brown Kiwi had experienced a 13 percent wild population increase helped by similar work in captivity and intensive predator control.

"However most kiwi populations are under threat in both the North and South Islands - for example in my electorate of Coromandel few kiwi are breeding successfully in the wild. Other rare species which aren't `sexy enough' to attract private sponsorship support are in even more danger. The Conservation Department hasn't the funds to do more than watch species declining in many areas.

"As a millennium initiative, the Government should pledge to preserve New Zealand's rare wildlife. Instead the Conservation Department's budget was cut this year from $179.8 million to $174.1 million."

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