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Reply to Muriel Newmans article

Reply to Muriel Newmans article

Fortunately for kiwi, Muriel Newman's report on the situation of our national bird in her letter of 19 November (Saving the kiwi) is third hand anecdotal hearsay.

First of all, the Department of Conservation agrees with Ms Newman on the importance of private involvement in conservation. It is recognised in the Government's New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy (2000-2020). Involving communities in conservation is a key aspect of the Department's Statement of Intent. Currently, there are hundreds of private conservation projects around the country, many of them supported by the Government.

Every year the Department of Conservation and the Ministry for the Environment give out more than $3 million in grants to more than 100 projects for conserving native species biodiversity on private land. In the last two years alone, the Department and the Ministry for the Environment approved 17 new kiwi care projects, with grant monies totalling $320,000.

DOC's kiwi conservation efforts are supported by more than 50 community-led and private projects around the country, mainly in the North Island, and supported by the Bank of New Zealand Kiwi Recovery Trust.

The Department of Conservation has never said that the kiwi is "headed for extinction". Yes, overall numbers of kiwi are in decline, but this fact needs to be studied in context. The loss of any individual kiwi to stoat, dog, ferret or feral cat predation is saddening for all, but with the best will in the world, it is impossible to protect every single kiwi everywhere from stoats. The Department's strategy is to intensively manage targeted populations and even though overall numbers are declining, we are increasing the chances of survival, or at least keeping stable, every one of 11 different species and genetically-distinct variety of kiwi

The key issue with kiwi are the rapid rates of decline occurring among four or five races of North Island brown kiwi whose numbers are, we estimate, halving every decade. DOC manages intensively populations of these kiwi at sites in Northland, the Coromandel, Tongariro forest, the southern slopes of Mt Ruapehu, northern Te Urewera, Boundary Stream in inland Hawke's Bay, in Egmont National Park, Mt Bruce/Pukaha forest, as well as on offshore islands.

Little spotted kiwi are protected on predator-free offshore islands and are not in decline. The great spotted kiwi, Southland tokoeka and kiwi on Stewart Island, all of which are reasonably numerous, are mostly stable because they live in remote locations and are less exposed to predators. While the Haast tokoeka and Okarito rowi are down to the last 200-300 birds each, the entire populations of both species are under intensive DOC management and are stable.

If anyone would like to help kiwi specifically, they are welcome to make a donation to the Bank of New Zealand Recovery Trust. Contrary to what Ms Newman suggests, it is very easy for ordinary New Zealanders to contribute to conservation in New Zealand even if they are unable to get involved on the ground.

Ms Newman would be well advised to seek information directly from the Department of Conservation before taking third hand advice. Her opinions might be better informed. The blue duck issue she raised is but one small example. The release of captive-reared whio was initiated by Friends of Flora, a community group supported by DOC. The project was about maximising the chances of whio making their home in Flora Stream, where intensive stoat control is occurring. The initial setbacks had to do with exceptionally bad weather affecting food availability and not 1080 poisoning. No 1080 has ever been used by DOC in the Flora catchment. The surviving birds were retrieved and re-released in Rolling Stream in the Whangapeka catchment where, incidentally, 1080 has been part of the pest control measures. The birds are thriving to the extent that they are pairing up with wild birds for breeding. Not bad considering that the original 11 eggs taken from the wild for the trial would most likely never have survived to adulthood without intervention.

The notion that DOC applies equal value to rubbish dumps and national parks needs to be challenged. If Ms Newman had done the slightest amount of research, she would have found that conservation criteria allow differing status on sites depending on their inherent values. DOC tailors its management to what's needed, site by site. That's why we are an acknowledged world leader in conservation asset management and why overseas conservation agencies are copying our methods for pest control, as well as recreation management.

ENDS

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