The Whinray Ecological Charitable Trust formed in 2002 to help halt the decline in brown kiwi numbers in the Gisborne-East Coast area of the North Island.

Whinray - Header Image

Trust chairman, Steve Sawyer, says “We were worried that the Department of Conservation (DOC) did not have the resources needed, so we got the local Motu and Matawai communities together and within 24 hours a Trust Board was formed.”

“We focused on the Motu area because it still had a small but relatively intact brown kiwi population in the nearby DOC-managed Whinray Scenic Reserve, so we had a chance to make a difference. We are lucky that the reserve was protected in 1905 so its podocarp-hardwood forest is pristine.”

While kiwi are the current priority for its work, the Trust also aims to protect and enhance all the area’s threatened species (including North Island weka, whio (blue duck) and long tailed bats), and educate people about nature conservation.

“It works really well because the local communities and farmers are extremely supportive,” Steve says. At present we have 65 families registered as members with the Trust and the nine-member Trust Board includes representatives from the local Motu and Matawai communities, and DOC.

Steve says one of the best advocates for kiwi conservation is the birds themselves. “People aren’t always passionate about kiwi because they never get to see one or be involved with a conservation programme. Once you get them involved with kiwi, particularly the kids, people can’t help but get passionate about them. This is such a special bird. They are unique, feisty, extremely well adapted, but extremely vulnerable at the same time.”

Proof of this is his team of volunteers. “These are mainly guys from a farming background, either shepherds or station managers, and it has been amazing to see them learn and get passionate about kiwi.

“Our hopes are that more kiwi populations can be established between Mahia and Te Araroa to return kiwi to their historical range, and that more people can be involved and get passionate about kiwi conservation.”

Size of Area under Protection

Whinray Scenic Reserve, five-kilometres from Motu (half way between Opotiki and Gisborne) is 430 hectares of pristine prodocarp native forest which has never been milled.

Biggest Challenges

Some of the toughest tests facing the Trust are finding funding, bringing the locals on board, getting the Trust up and running as a legal entity.

Biggest Successes

The first success has been getting the Trust up and running. Although only still a relatively new organisation, the Whinray Ecological Charitable Trust has already made some significant steps toward the aim of expanding kiwi populations between Mahia and Te Araroa back to their historic range.

A team of eight volunteers currently monitors kiwi in Whinray Reserve every week for nine months of the year, some driving more than 160 kilometres. Kiwi call counts show that Brown Kiwi numbers have already risen from about 12 birds in Whinray before 1999, to more than 19. “Because several adult pairs have not been monitored yet, we probably have significantly more than this number,” Steve says.

Completing the $110,000 predator-proof fence around the kiwi chick enclosure (on land donated by a local landowners, Dan and Jane Griffin) has been another huge success, and Steve says it’s exciting to see kiwi chicks hit the one-kilogram mark where they are better able to defend themselves against stoats. The plan is to build a $250,000 kiwi conservation centre and wetland next door to the creche. Volunteers are growing native trees seedlings for the replanting project. The Trust has also raised $40,000 for trapping equipment which is hired back to the local community.


The purpose of the independent Trust is to provide a tool where the community can work alongside DOC, corporate sponsors and private landowners to raise money for species conservation to protect species in the Whinray and Motu Area. Steve believes these groups hold the key to the success of kiwi in the East Coast-Gisborne region. “Considerable resources are available from the private sector – it’s a matter of spending the time to tap into these resources,” he says.

So far the Trust’s funding has come from:

  • Kiwis for kiwi
  • DOC
  • the JN Williams Trust
  • a sizeable donation from another Trust
  • charitable donations from the members and public.

The One Most Important Thing

The single most important thing to Whinray Eco Charitable Trust has been getting the right people involved – such as a lawyer to help draw up the trust documents, someone who knows how to apply for funding, and a publicity officer to enhance our profile.

Contact Details

If you would like to help with the work of the Whinray Ecological Charitable Trust, or would like further information, please contact their secretary Fiona Kemp:





Fiona Kemp,
Whinray Eco Trust,
PO Box 19, Motu,
Gisborne  4052