Clea Gardiner's role with the The Kiwi Trust is firmly focused on supporting Northland community-led kiwi projects based on private land.

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Her contract with the Trust sees Clea coordinating, advising and supporting community projects from Auckland in the south, to Awanui, north of Kaitaia. The aim is to increase the group’s capacity so that they can better carry out the active management needed to recover and maintain local Northland brown kiwi populations.

It’s a busy part-time role, with about 49,000 hectares being managed by 32 landowner and community groups. As part of it, Clea liaises with regional and district councils, forestry landowners and other organisations also working to support kiwi recovery on private land.

To help co-ordinate this huge pool of effort, a large collective has been formed — the Northland Kiwi Forum. Part of Clea’s role is to maintain regional communication networks and provide administration support for the Forum’s Working Group, which has representatives from each area. Working Group members make sure their project’s people are kept up-to-date with what is happening.

An important part of Clea’s role is to facilitate implementation of community-focused tasks in the Taxon Plan for the Northland brown kiwi.

Why kiwi?

Clea was drawn to working with kiwi because of her long-standing passion for New Zealand’s native biodiversity, and the need to care for it. Much of her adult career has been working for conservation in one way or another. “It was good luck that one of the five kiwi sanctuaries the Department of Conservation manages is near Whangarei, which is where I live, and I was incredibly fortunate to have a role in managing the sanctuary as the Whangarei area programme manager for biodiversity and kiwi.”

After 10 years in that role, Clea says luck struck again when she was taken on by the former BNZ Save The Kiwi Trust, and now The Kiwi Trust.

High point

A high point for Cleas’ work with kiwi was the ten years working with the Whangarei Kiwi Sanctuary team. “They are an amazingly supportive, cohesive and passionate team,” she says, “and that bodes well for kiwi.”

As well, Clea says a high point is seeing how hardworking and caring Northland community kiwi groups and iwi are. “They have blossomed at an incredible pace,” she says. “These groups are the way of the future and will play a huge part in the well-being of kiwi and other biodiversity.”

Low point

Invariably, it’s dogs that deliver the low points in Cleas’ work with kiwi. “When my team came in from the field with that look on their face, I knew only too well that another one of their adult kiwi, a bird they had monitored since it was a small chick, had been killed by a dog. It happens too often.”

Thoughts for the future

Clea says she is thrilled to be working with both The Kiwi Trust and Northland communities. Her goal, and a big challenge, is that it becomes the norm for people to keep their dogs under control at all times, allowing Northland’s kiwi populations to be self-sustaining.