Matarau School with Miriam from DOC and Trekker the kiwi

Years of hard work by Tanekaha farmers paid off over the weekend when they welcomed 12 kiwi back home.

Over 250 people joined the Tanekaha community to celebrate the return of the kiwi and see them released onto pest controlled farmland.

The release of 12 Northland brown kiwi back into the Tanekaha Community Pest Control Area (CPCA), was a dream come true for the farming community after years of hard work to make the area safe for kiwi once again.

By 2012, kiwi in the Tanekaha area on the edge of the Hikurangi swamp had dwindled to just one pair known as Two-Toes and Binky.

Although Two-Toes and Binky were producing eggs, it wasn’t safe for them to stay as there were too many predators in the area for kiwi chicks to survive. In areas where stoats and other predators are not controlled, 95% of kiwi chicks are killed before their first birthday.

Five viable kiwi eggs were removed from the Tanekaha area by Department of Conservation (DOC) rangers. The eggs were incubated by Auckland Zoo and Whangarei Native Bird Recovery Centre, as part of the Operation Nest Egg programme.

The chicks were then placed on predator free Motuora Island. Motuora is a ‘kiwi creche’ where kiwi chicks live until they reach around 1.2 kilograms in weight.  At this weight they’re strong enough to defend themselves from stoats and can be taken off the island and released into predator controlled areas on the mainland.

Edwin Smith, coordinator of the Tanekaha CPCA: “It was heartbreaking to see kiwi eggs removed from our area because it wasn’t safe for them to stay. Our farming community decided it was up to us to turn this around and get our kiwi back.”

The Tanekaha CPCA was launched in September 2012 with farmers signing an agreement with Northland Regional Council to establish a pest control program. The goal was to reduce pests to make the area a safer environment for kiwi to survive.

Don McKenzie, Biosecurity Manager for the Northland Regional Council: “It has been great to work alongside the Tanekaha community over the past four years to help resource their pest control work. It is communities and farmers like Tanekaha that are shaping a great future for Northland’s biodiversity.”

Northland Regional Council assisted the community to establish a network of predator traps throughout an area of 800 hectares. This pest controlled area includes farmland, patches of native forest, pine forest and swamp. Animal pests controlled in the area include stoats, weasels, ferrets, rats, feral cats, hedgehogs and possums.

The community is also working to keep kiwi in the area safe from dogs, the number one killer of adult kiwi in Northland.

After four years of community pest control, the Tanekaha area is now safe, once again, for kiwi.

Edwin Smith: “Two Toes and Binky have now hatched three kiwi chicks. The chicks have been able to stay because the pest controlled area is safe for them. We can also welcome more kiwi into the area. This will boost the kiwi population and increase the genetic diversity of the kiwi bred in the area.”

“We’re aiming to release up to 20 kiwi into the pest controlled area at Tanekaha over the next few years. This will provide us with a solid foundation to build a self-sustaining breeding population in the area.”

Ngaire Tyson from the NZ Landcare Trust and Kiwi Coast: “We are proud to support the Tanekaha community to care for the special biodiversity on their farmland. The Tanekaha farmers are working hard to ensure the iconic values of their land will be there for future generations and are really leading the way.”

The kiwi were gathered on Saturday night from Motuora Island by a team of DOC rangers and specially trained Tanekaha locals.

DOC ranger Rolf Fuchs led the operation. “It was a long night catching the kiwi, but our trained crew did a great job on Motuora. We’re very happy to have gathered 12 kiwi for release into the predator controlled area at Tanekaha, where we know they will be safe.”

The kiwi were carried by boat from Motuora to Sandspit, near Warkworth. Then  transported by road to Northland, by DOC rangers, a team of Tanekaha CPCA drivers and Ngati Manuhiri representatives.

The Fonterra DOC Living Water partnership covered the cost of transporting the kiwi from Motuora to Tanekaha. Living Water has also funded transmitters – fitted to each kiwi before their release – and equipment that picks up the signals from the transmitters.

Fonterra Living Water Programme Manager Tim Brandenburg: “It’s exciting to be able to help the trust bring the kiwi to one of our catchments. In this catchment, along with our four others, we’re working to show that sustainable dairying and healthy ecosystems can exist alongside each other.”

Ngati Manuhiri gifted the kiwi to local hapu Ngati Hau and the Tanekaha community during a powhiri ceremony at the Fonterra Jordan Valley Farm on Sunday.

Alan Haliday from Ngati Hau: “This is the first time that kiwi have been returned to the rohe of Ngati Hau. It was a very special day for us. We look forward to having this taonga thriving in our area once more.”

The Tanekaha community wish to thank all the generous supporters who helped to make the kiwi release possible. This includes DOC, the Living Water partnership, Northland Regional Council, Kiwis for kiwi, NZ Landcare Trust and Kiwi Coast. Plus local sponsors, Rouse Motorcycles Ltd, JenV Farms Ltd, Ringrose Stockfoods, Piano Hill Vets and Silver Fern Farms.