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New Zealand Prime Minister asked to save the kiwi

12 September 1999

MEDIA RELEASE - FOR IMMEDIATE USE

New Zealand Prime Minister asked to save the kiwi

Contact: Bill Gilbertson (04) 385-7374 or (03)548-4469 or Kevin Smith (04) 385-7374 or (04) 934-2473

A Government funded rescue programme is urgently needed to save New Zealand's national bird, the kiwi, from extinction in the wild, according to the country's largest conservation group, the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society.

The Society's Deputy President, Bill Gilbertson, said Forest and Bird's national executive had met on the weekend to discuss the chilling new information on the kiwi's conservation status.

New Zealand's Department of Conservation has reported that numbers of the North Island brown kiwi had fallen an alarming 18% in the last year in its Northland stronghold. The annual rate of decline since 1995 has been 10%.

"Within the next ten years kiwi will be all but extinct in Northland. This is a national tragedy. The kiwi is also in a free-fall towards extinction elsewhere in the North and South Islands, with only populations of little spotted and Stewart Island kiwi holding their own on small islands off-shore from the main North and South Islands."

Forest and Bird also believes the Haast kiwi, found in the South West World Heritage Area, is on the very brink of extinction.

Mr Gilbertson said Forest and Bird had requested a meeting with the Prime Minister earlier in the year to seek her support for the Society's proposals for a major rescue programme for the kiwi, costing $10 million a year.

"Jenny Shipley refused to meet with us and rejected our "Kiwis for Kiwis" programme. Soon after, she approved the logging of critical kiwi habitat in Orikaka forest on the South Island's West Coast by the Government's native forest logging business Timberlands West Coast."

Mr Gilbertson said the Government's refusal to fund a rescue programme for kiwi and to allow the logging of kiwi forests was shameful.

"There would be no hope at all for the kiwi if it wasn't for a generous sponsorship by the Bank of New Zealand of the Kiwi Recovery Programme, in partnership with Forest and Bird and the Department of Conservation. Thanks to this programme we know introduced predators and habitat loss are pushing the kiwi to extinction and we know how the kiwi can be saved. But government funding is desperately needed now to launch a major fight back to save the kiwi on the two main islands."

Mr Gilbertson said New Zealand children would grow up with 25 channel television but will never know the call of the kiwi in the forest at night.

Mr Gilbertson said the Society's executive had resolved to try once again to meet the Prime Minister and win her support for kiwi conservation.

"We will also be seeking commitments to save our national bird from all political parties for the coming general election."

"We are going to fight for the kiwi. We will not sit on the sidelines while it quietly disappears from our forests," said Mr Gilbertson.

...........ends


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