The kiwi sanctuary is the dream of Kaipara farmers Gill and Kevin Adshead, with the latest additions being released onto a neighbouring farm belonging to the Gardner family, 65km north of Auckland. The kiwi came from Motuora Island, a pest free island in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, which is managed by DOC and the Motuora Restoration Society.
The Adsheads already have 13 Northland brown kiwi on their sheep and cattle farm. The first kiwi were released on the property in May last year and have already begun breeding, with one kiwi chick hatched so far. The Adsheads are the first farmers to have released and bred kiwi on a working farm.
The release last Friday was attended by BNZ Chief Marketing Officer Craig Herbison, Chair of Kiwis for kiwi™ Rob Fenwick and Rodney MP Mark Mitchell.
Gill Adshead says it has taken seven years of hard work, developing the farm – with help from the community – to provide a safe home for kiwi.
“We had to reduce the number of stoats, feral cats, rats and possums to a level where kiwi can live and breed safely on the farm. Plus we’ve erected 8 kilometres of shade cloth fencing around the entire boundary of our 1300 hectare property to keep kiwi inside the pest controlled area. It also helps reduce the number of dogs that stray onto the farm. Uncontrolled dogs are major killers of kiwi.”
“Our dream is to have a robust, self-sustaining kiwi population spread across 10,000 hectares of the south Kaipara. Kiwi lived here in the past. With the help of our local community, schools and other enthusiastic supporters we are able to bring them back,” says Kevin Adshead.
“We’ve held a pest control workshop with 60 people from neighbouring farms. Some farmers have begun putting traps on their properties. We’ll expand that by working with farmers, the community, Kiwis for kiwi, DOC, iwi, everyone who wants to join us to bring kiwi back to the Kaipara.”
The Adshead’s vision of bringing ‘kiwi back to the Kaipara’ began in 2006. They established the Mataia Restoration project to restore 400 hectares of native bush and salt marsh on their 1300 hectare farm. They carried out pest control and with the help of community volunteers and local schools began planting native trees. They now plant around 4000 native trees a year on the farm. Corridors of native bush and stream banks have also been fenced to protect them from the farm’s cattle and sheep and to provide safe passage for wildlife.
“Having done all this work to restore our native bush, our consultant ecologist Jo Ritchie, said we could realistically look at releasing kiwi on the farm,” says Gill Adshead.
“We loved the idea and consulted DOC on what we would need to do to have kiwi on the property. Ongoing pest control and the shade cloth fence around the farm were the major things. When that was completed we had our first kiwi release in May last year.”
“Our target is to have a founder population of around 40 kiwi on the farm. We’ll be pretty close to that with this latest kiwi release,” says Gill Adshead.
Kiwi were once common throughout New Zealand. Now they’re endangered because of introduced pests – particularly stoats and feral cats – and because of uncontrolled dogs. Today, 95 per cent of kiwi – living in areas where pests and dogs are not controlled – die before they reach breeding age.
Kiwis for kiwi executive director, Michelle Impey, says the Adshead’s contribution to saving kiwi is outstanding.
“The work Gill and Kevin are doing, with their community, to bring kiwi back to the Kaipara is very inspiring. I hope other communities will follow their lead. Together we can take kiwi from being endangered to everywhere.”