Government hatches strategy to raise wild kiwi numbers to 100,000 by 2030
Predator control will be the focus of a strategy to reverse the decline in kiwi numbers, announced on Monday by Conservation Minister Maggie Barry.
Kiwi numbers currently fall by 2 per cent each year, but the Government wants to turn this into a 2 per cent annual gain, to swell numbers to close to 100,000 by 2030.
Wild kiwi numbers sit just below 70,000, with the annual decline caused mainly by predation from stoats and dogs. Only about 6 per cent survive to breeding age.
"To save the things we love we have to kill the things that predate on them. It is very much about getting rid of the rats, the stoats the possums, and the other predators," Barry said.
* Government sets target to make New Zealand 'predator-free' by 2050
* Cash boost for kiwi recovery programmes
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* Critically-endangered Haast kiwi returned to Rona Island
Kiwi also drown in rivers and lakes, are killed by cars at night, walk into possum traps, and fall off cliffs and into sump holes, mine shafts, cattle-stops, swimming pools and stock drinking troughs, the draft Kiwi Recovery Plan 2017-27 stated.
The plan focuses on growing the wild kiwi population through predator control and building on the work achieved under previous plans and through Kiwis for Kiwi and other conservation groups, Barry said.
"Through the work of [these] players, we know that where kiwi are managed we can achieve a 2 per cent population growth. The challenge lies in scaling up those efforts and supporting them.
"Kiwi in remote areas need to be protected from predators while remaining in the wild to live, breed and thrive as nature intended, as they did before predators arrived."
Of the main breeds of kiwi, rowi and haast tokoeka are the rarest, and classified as nationally critical. Only about 500 rowi birds remain, and haast tokeka were down to an estimated 400 this year.
A kohanga site for rowi has already been established on Mana Island, near Wellington, but it's expected to be up to 10 years before we know if it's working, the plan said.
The plan is part of the Government's $11.2 million Budget 2015 investment in kiwi conservation, Barry said.
"The $11.2m will be spread out over several years and will ensure we can get the population up to plus 2 per cent in that hard-to-reach South Island wilderness country.
"100,000 birds is an ambitious goal but it's one we think we can achieve given the overarching Predator [Free] 2050 plan the Government has."
Central and local government, tangata whenua, community, and other groups that work with kiwi will now be invited to have input into the plan.
Consultation will close on January 27 and the finalised plan will be released later in 2017.
HOW WILL THE STRATEGY WORK?
"It always comes down to predator control," Barry said.
"With the goal of putting kiwi into the wild ... we need to ensure those are safe habitats."
To prevent kiwi from becoming stuck in traps, possum traps will be set above ground level, Barry said.
"While [trapping] is a potential threat [to kiwi] we don't see it as one that is highly significant."
Genetic management will be a focus, to ensure kiwi don't interbreed, so translocations will be important.
Efforts to safeguard kiwi from dog attacks will be made through encouraging dog owners to be responsible.
Kiwi, with their large ribcage, are especially vulnerable to attacks from hunting dogs, she said.
Banning hunting dogs from kiwi areas would be "very difficult" and wasn't on the cards, Barry said.
FUNDING SHOULD COME FROM GOVT: GREENS
To achieve a 2 per cent annual increase, an estimated $1.6m in extra funding is needed - and the Government is hoping that will be raised by charity Kiwis for Kiwi.
Gains made from Predator Free New Zealand programme "might make up the shortfall" or provide other benefits, the draft plan said.
Green spokeswoman for conservation, Mojo Mathers, said charities should not be left to pick up the tab on conservation projects.
"The National Government's plans for conservation, such as predator-free New Zealand and the new plan to boost kiwi numbers, don't have the Government funding to make them work.
"Predator-free New Zealand relies on two thirds of its funding to come from the private sector. Our precious species need secure funding to help them, and shouldn't have to rely on charitable donations to be viable."
In response, Barry said "the Greens are very fond of the ratepayer and taxpayer funding everything".
"The Greens have their own unusual, financial accounting system ... what we do is carefully analyse what's required, we look at making initial investments which can than be used as leverage for businesses, philanthropists and other partners."
Little spotted kiwi
Old 2030 estimate: 2900
New 2030 estimate: 2900
Great spotted kiwi
Old 2030 estimate: 11,600
New 2030 estimate: 19,900
Old 2030 estimate: 32,000
New 2030 estimate 35,400
Old 2030 estimate: 900
New 2030 estimate: 900
Old 2030 estimate: 21,400
New 2030 estimate: 35,000
TOTAL 2030: 94,100