Morgan Cox’s role with The Kiwi Trust aims to strengthen the role tāngata whenua play in kiwi conservation in Aotearoa New Zealand.
His part-time contract with the Trust sees Morgan working alongside tāngata whenua-led kiwi conservation projects on private and Māori-owned land. His role, titled Kaitautoko Kaupapa Kiwi, focuses on building partnerships with tāngata whenua to build their skills and enable them to achieve their kiwi project goals.
Morgan has had the opportunity to work on these projects in the past, and he has enjoyed the strong sense of place they projects. Although kiwi conservation is an obvious part of the role, Morgan sees the creation of social and economic opportunities as being equally important. “It is the people that will ultimately ensure that these taonga are protected. If the people are not strong, then what will the future hold for kiwi?” he says.
Morgan is learning te reo, and looks forward to meeting with the different communities working with kiwi, and deepening his understanding of te Ao Māori. Morgan’s role also supports objectives of the Kiwi Recovery Group, which are to involve iwi at all levels of kiwi management and research, to identify opportunities for greater involvement, and to identify any barriers that may prevent this.
Working with kiwi is quite new for Morgan, who first became involved when he moved to Arthur’s Pass five years ago. “In Arthur’s Pass kiwi are literally in your backyard and there is a strong community project doing trapping and monitoring chick survival. The community trapping has also benefited other birds, with tītīpounamu, korimako and pīpipi all frequent visitors to our house.
“It has been a real pleasure to hear kiwi so often and to see the wider benefits that kiwi conservation can bring. I want to help other people to make this connection and become personally involved in caring for our environment.”
Morgan says a high point is: “Being kept awake in bed by kiwi calling in the forest just beside our house. Now that is my kind of noisy neighbour.”
A low point has been tracking into a dead chick that had drowned in a stream after heavy rain. “The odds are heavily stacked against kiwi survival,” he says. “If predators don’t get them, they still have to negotiate a dangerous world. We have lost so much already from this land, it would be a huge tragedy to allow the call of the kiwi to be silenced.”
Thoughts for the future
It is a challenging time for conservation, Morgan says, with the recession making it harder to find funding. “It is also, however, a time of innovation as we try to use our conservation resources wisely. Forming new strong partnerships is becoming increasingly important if we are to turn the tide of extinction, and protect this beautiful environment we have been gifted with,” he says.
One thing that is very positive is the growing strength of the Māori economy. “Looking to the future, I think that tāngata whenua will increasingly be at the centre of conservation, giving full expression to the responsibilities of kaitiakitanga. For all the challenges, I think that these are exciting times for conservation in Aotearoa.”