Offspring of Taranaki's last kokako to undergo relocation
After nearly 20 years, the call of the kokako will soon be heard in Taranaki again.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) has given the green light for the native bird to be reintroduced to the region.
Within the next two weeks a number of kokako will be relocated to the Parininihi forest, a 2000 hectare section stretching from Whitecliffs, near Urenui, inland to Mt Messenger.
But multi-million dollar proposals to upgrade State Highway 3 could see a bypass route run right through the native bird reserve.
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There are three options for the upgrade, two of which bypass the mountain altogether and cut across the Parininihi conservation area.
The other option looks to improve safety on the existing road and widen the Mt Messenger tunnel.
On Wednesday, Transport Minister Simon Bridges indicated the preferred option among the transport industry and the community, but opposed by iwi, was one of the bypass routes.
He said relocation of the endangered birds was an option to be discussed if the highway was diverted through the area.
DOC spokesman Des Williams said it was still too early to say what impact the roading realignment options would have on the kokako.
"Except that whatever option is chosen will have some impact on the likely ultimate number of kokako that will be able to inhabit the bush areas," he said.
Despite the imminent upgrade, having the kokako returned to the region would be a "special moment" for the Tiaki Te Mauri O Parininihi Trust (TTMOP) who had been working to prepare the block of land since 2012 for the purpose of reintroducing kokako, Williams said.
The birds were descendants of Taranaki's last kokako, named Tamanui, captured by DOC in 1999 and relocated due to the threat posed by pests.
Williams said Pukaha Mount Bruce and then Tiritiri O Matangi Island supporters and iwi had cared for Tamanui's offspring and the kokako destined for Taranaki would come from this stock.
The relocation was due to take place last year but had been delayed until Autumn to give time for legal agreements to be created between the landowner, Ngati Tama, and the Trust.
"The Trust was to confirm that they had secure access to the land of Parininihi to continue to undertake the pest control necessary," Williams said.
The Trust had worked to reduce threats like rats, possums, stoats, goats and weeds in preparation of the site.
The process was now complete and Williams said DOC was "thrilled" to issue the permit for the translocation.
The North Island kokako was reduced to only 400 pairs by 1999 but after predator control programmes were established numbers began to increase.
Today there are an estimated 1600 pairs of kokako at 22 pest-managed sites from Northland to Kapiti Island.