Conservation Minister, Willow-Jean Prime, has welcomed the historic return of nine Western brown kiwi to sanctuary in the Tongariro Forest, with another 60 birds set to join them in the coming weeks.
“Eighteen years ago, rangatira had the vision to place a group of vulnerable Tongariro kiwi under the care of Ngāti Korokī Kahukura and safeguard them at Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari in the Waikato,” Minister Prime said.
“Today we were privileged to witness this kaitiakitanga come full-circle as the kiwi returned home.
“The Government is proud to be supporting this and other efforts to increase and take care of our iconic kiwi population.”
After a pōwhiri welcoming the kiwi back home, members of Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro and Ngāti Korokī Kahukura, alongside Minister Prime, DOC staff and members of the Save the Kiwi group released the first birds into the 20,000-hectare nature reserve.
“I would like to acknowledge the work of Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro and Ngāti Korokī Kahukura in their longstanding efforts to grow the brown kiwi population,” Ms Prime said.
“An incredible reciprocity between these two hapū has made this release possible.
“I would also like to thank Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari and Save the Kiwi for nurturing this kiwi population to the point where they can be gifted back to the places they came from.”
The kiwi population in Tongariro Forest Kiwi Sanctuary is protected through an extensive predator control programme including trapping and three-yearly toxin operations, managed by the Department of Conservation.
“We are excited to see this become another success story in the vast predator-free efforts happening across the motu,” Minister Prime said.
This series of releases to Tongariro will be the first of what is expected to become several large-scale releases from Maungatautari, thanks to Save the Kiwi’s Kōhanga Kiwi repopulation strategy, the National Kiwi Hatchery, Wairakei Golf and Sanctuary, Project Tongariro, Owhango Alive, the Department of Conservation, and volunteers.