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Kakapo release marks 24 years of partnership

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 18/07/2014
Kakapo released
NEIL RATLEY / Fairfax NZ
NEW HOME: Conservation Minister Nick Smith and New Zealand Aluminium Smelters general manager and chief executive Gretta Stephens release three hand-reared juvenile kakapo into the wild on Whenua Hou/Codfish Island.

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The release of three young kakapo on Whenua Hou/Codfish Island celebrated the continued survival of a critically endangered species and a 24-year commercial conservation partnership.

Conservation Minister Nick Smith and Department of Conservation boss Lou Sanson flew to the island sanctuary this week and met New Zealand Aluminium Smelters chief executive Gretta Stephens to recognise the smelter's long commitment to the kakapo recovery programme.

Smith and Sanson highlighted the gains the longest-running DOC commercial conservation partnership had made to conservation.

There was also a push by Smith and Sanson to convince NZAS it should continue to fund the ground-breaking partnership.

NZAS began sponsoring the fight to save the critically endangered kakapo in 1990 and has contributed $4.35 million and 1000 days of people power towards the kakapo recovery programme.

However, money troubles at the aluminium plant resulted in a public announcement last year that NZAS would be cutting off its cash supply to the programme after 2015.

Stephens, who joined the minister to release three juvenile kakapo into the wild, said the company had been extremely proud to have been part of the programme.

"New Zealand Aluminium Smelters has been so impressed with the work DOC has done, and with what has been achieved in the 24 years the smelter has been associated with the programme," she said.

The partnership had been valued by NZAS staff, who loved coming to work along side DOC staff on the island. However, the company had to count its pennies during "challenging economic circumstances", Stephens said.

"Any discretionary spending had to be held up to very strong scrutiny," she said.

NZAS would remain fully committed to the partnership until the end of 2015, when it would be up for review and renewal.

Smith said he would like to see DOC's longest-running commercial partnership continue for the success of the kakapo recovery programme and because it has been used as a blueprint for other long-term commercial partnerships.

With the smelter's help, a species on the brink of extinction had increased in numbers, he said. "The success of the kakapo recovery programme is a tribute to DOC staff but, equally, the NZAS partnership has played a huge role in supporting the survival of the species."

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- The Southland Times

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