The Department of Conservation has approved a $411,000 plan by a leading Hawke’s Bay conservation trust to release up to 200 kiwi in the 11,400ha Pohokura Forest between 2019 and 2024. The move is an important third step in an ambitious kiwi conservation plan to control predators and establish self-sustaining populations of North Island Brown Kiwi across a contiguous, 33,000 ha swathe of the central North Island.
The first kiwi was released at the property today in a ceremony led by Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust Chairman Simon Hall and attended by DOC officials, representatives of tangata whenua and conservationists from across the Hawke’s Bay region.
Pohokura is managed by the Trust. It lies to the north of State Highway 5 between Taupo and Napier and adjoins the privately-owned Ngatapa Station (9,515ha), which in turn sits alongside the Trust’s other properties in the Maungataniwha Native Forest (6,120ha) and the Maungataniwha Pine Forest (6,294ha), which is being restored to native bush in the largest project of its kind in the country.
The green light for the Trust to restock Pohokura with kiwi follows a decision last year by the owners of Ngatapa Station to start kiwi conservation and a comprehensive predator trapping programme there, and achievement of the Trust’s decade-long ambition to establish a viable kiwi population at Maungataniwha.
The impact of the conservation work now happening on all three properties is magnified by significant kiwi and whio restoration programmes underway in the Whirinaki Conservation Forest north-east of Pohokura.
The Trust achieved a viable population of kiwi at Maungataniwha in June last year. It plans to repeat the achievement at Pohokura, releasing up to 40 kiwi there each year for five years, or until 200 kiwi have been released. The primary source of kiwi will be juveniles from Maungataniwha, incubated and reared as part of the national Operation Nest Egg kiwi conservation initiative. Some may also be sourced from other appropriate locations within the eastern brown kiwi region.
The reintroduction started today with the release at Pohokura of the 300th Kiwi reared as part of the Trust’s involvement in Operation Nest Egg. It will be accompanied by extensive predator control work.
Kiwi conservation work at Pohokura will be funded primarily by the Trust, with specialist not-for-profit provider OSPRI undertaking pest management work to the value of $160,000 and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council contributing trapping equipment worth $11,500.
A small number of kiwi are already present at Pohokura, which has the potential to support as many as 500 breeding pairs within the species’ natural geographic range.
Re-establishing kiwi at Pohokura supports the long-term goal of the national Kiwi Recovery Plan; to reach 100,000 kiwi by 2030 through growing populations of all kiwi species by at least two percent a year, restoring them to their former distribution and maintaining their genetic diversity.
Eastern brown kiwi are the least managed and fastest declining of the four regional populations. Establishing a population of around 100 pairs within five years at Pohokura will make a significant contribution towards the recovery of this species, Mr Hall said.
For the first three years a sample of kiwi released each year at Pohokura will be fitted with radio-transmitters so that their dispersal and survival can be monitored.
Mr Hall said he hoped Pohokura would ultimately help re-populate neighbouring areas with kiwi.
“Just as Maungataniwha can now be the source of kiwi to re-stock Pohokura, so we hope that ultimately Pohokura kiwi will make their way naturally to neighbouring areas such as the Whirinaki Conservation Forest, which is also being made safe for them.”
The Maungataniwha Kiwi Project is partnered with Kiwi for kiwi, the national charity which supports community-led and Māori-led kiwi conservation projects, and is fast carving out a name for itself as one of the most prolific and successful kiwi conservation initiatives in the country. Between its inception in 2006 and the end of the 2016/2017 season (March 2017) over 300 chicks have been released back into the wild, nearly two thirds of which have been released back into the Maungataniwha Native Forest.
The Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust was established in 2006 to provide direction and funding for the restoration of threatened species of fauna and flora in native forests within the Central North Island. In addition to the Maungataniwha Kiwi Project the Trust runs a series of native flora and fauna regeneration projects. These include a drive to increase the wild-grown population of Kakabeak (Clianthus maximus), an extremely rare type of shrub.