There are four types, or taxa, of North Island brown kiwi. Although they are all the same species, regional variations have evolved as a result of geographic isolation, and the different taxa have separate management plans within the Saving the Kiwi strategy.
The Coromandel is where the first community-led kiwi conservation project was started in New Zealand and Kiwis for kiwi has been a close partner of many of the groups in the region for many years. The colossal effort of the community has proven that intensive pest and predator control programmes, coupled with the strategic use of Operation Nest Egg™, are effective in starting to build up kiwi numbers. There were an estimated 1,700 kiwi on the Coromandel Peninsula as of 2017.
We have been working with community conservation groups, iwi and DOC to build a founder population of Coromandel brown kiwi on Motutapu Island. The island has the capacity to hold several hundred birds. Our target is to release enough chicks onto the island to reach capacity and begin harvesting juvenile birds by 2022. We aim for the Coromandel population to be 3,100 kiwi by 2030.
Northland is currently home to the largest population of North Island brown kiwi, with an estimated 8,200 birds in the region in 2017. Community- and Māori-led kiwi conservation groups are once again highly active in protecting kiwi habitat in the region, but one of the main challenges is the management of dogs, which are an adult kiwi’s biggest threat.
Operation Nest Egg™ has not been widely used with Northland brown kiwi to date and so there are currently no suitable established kōhanga available for use as part of the Saving the Kiwi strategy. However, there are features of Northland’s landscape, including a number of peninsulas, which provide opportunities for the creation of predator-free zones, which are being explored. Our target is to grow the kiwi population in Northland to 10,400 birds by 2030.
The Eastern region for North Island brown kiwi stretches from the northern Bay of Plenty to the Central Plateau, across to the East Cape and down to southern Hawkes Bay. There are an estimated 7,150 kiwi in the region, but the population is declining most rapidly here. Scaling up the use of Operation Nest Egg™ is crucial to ensure the future of kiwi in the region and priorities include the establishment of more kōhanga and increasing capacity at brooding facilities. The target population in 2030 is 9,000 birds.
The western region is another large region, with around 7,500 kiwi dispersed throughout it. The wide dispersal creates a challenge so engaging with a wide range of landowners and community groups is essential.
Where the region does have a particular advantage is in its kōhanga – Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari. This is the largest predator-proof fenced project in the world and has the capacity to be home to around 680 pairs of kiwi. With only around 100 kiwi resident currently, this provides a significant founder population growth opportunity. Using this as the source for juvenile kiwi to return to the wild, we aim to have increased the kiwi population in the western region to 9,400 by 2030.