Kiwi quartet wing in to Rotokare

Four North Island brown kiwi swooped into Taranaki yesterday and took up residence in the largest inland pest-free sanctuary.

The four male birds represent a new era in kiwi conservation in the region, with conservationists predicting a big increase in the number of birds available to release.

Taranaki Kiwi Trust chairwoman Sue Hardwick-Smith said within the predator-free area at Rotokare they have a "cost effective and ecologically viable" way of boosting kiwi numbers throughout Taranaki and beyond.

The Kohanga Kiwi project replaces the Taranaki Kiwi Trust and Department of Conservation's previous involvement in Operation Nest Egg.

"With this new project, we will be able to hugely increase the number of kiwi we release to sites such as Egmont National Park and bush areas where pest control is taking place."

The kiwi made the 700km journey from Christchurch's Orana Park to Lake Rotokare on an Air New Zealand flight with a handful of volunteers.

Touching down at New Plymouth airport, they were quickly whisked away to meet about 160 people who had gathered at the Rotokare Scenic Reserve.

The "meet and greet" was followed by a blessing from Ngati Ruanui elders before the birds were released at strategic locations around the reserve.

Rotokare Trust chairman Mike Weren said they aimed to catch or rear 30 unrelated kiwi over the next two years.

"These birds will become the founder population for the Kohanga Kiwi."

He said eventually people would have a "fairly good chance" of bumping into kiwi in the reserve.

The new arrivals boosted the numbers of kiwi now living in the area to 11.

The 230-hectare wetland reserve, east of Eltham, has been recognised as nationally significant and conservationists around the country have marvelled at its openness to the community.

Numerous funders for the $100,000 project have also been involved, including OMV, Harris Taylor, Feats and DFE Pharma - all of whom had "adopted a kiwi".

Taranaki Daily News