The Omataroa Kiwi Project is on Māori land in the hills behind Awakeri and Te Teko near Whakatane.
The land is administered by the Omataroa-Rangitaiki No 2 Trust, and there are over 6000 shareholders in the land. The main focus of the project is the bio-diversity rich Puhikoko Reserve (546 ha), which is home to kiwi, kereru and North Island Robin. A kawanata is in place over Puhikoko Reserve, and intensive predator trapping and poisoning is undertaken to control mustelids, rats, cats and possums. Regular kiwi aversion training is also held with the local Omataroa hunting club and kaitiaki work is undertaken with forestry contractors to prevent harm to kiwi during forestry operations.
The objective of the project is to protect the kiwi population and the wider bio-diversity values of the forest, while also helping people reconnect to the whenua and develop their skills as kaitiaki. Ian Tarei leads the work on the ground, and has a strong interest in engaging whänau in kiwi conservation from a young age. Local köhanga reo are regular attendees at kiwi releases, and a group of Te Teko youth have been trained to undertake predator control and kiwi work.
Wild juvenile kiwi have recently been found in the area, highlighting the benefits to the kiwi population from the animal pest control and advocacy work. Operation Nest Egg (ONE) has been successfully utilised to return chicks to the reserve once they have reached a safe weight. This has helped reinvigorate the resident kiwi population with young birds. Kiwi chicks have also been gifted to other local kiwi projects to help ensure a robust gene pool in the now isolated populations.
Omataroa Kiwi Project is proudly supported by Natural Whispers with a portion of all proceeds going directly to the project.
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Size of area under protection
Omataroa occupies an area of 7,777 hectares, consisting of approximately 7100 ha of exotic production forest and a further 640 hectares of indigenous forest. The plantation forest and bush remnants which surround the mature forest of Puhikoko Reserve contain significant kiwi habitat, and kiwi sign is regularly seen. The long-term aim is to extend kiwi protection over the entire Omataroa area. Currently Rayonier Forestry fund buffer trapping around Puhikoko Reserve, and there are plans to extend this network. Kiwi call count monitoring is also planned over a wide area to help direct the future expansion of the project.
The whānaungatanga between different kiwi projects has been one of the highlights for the Omataroa Kiwi Project. The Lake Waikaremoana Hapū Restoration Trust and Project Kiwi attend the kiwi call count monitoring at Omataroa, and Omataroa kaitiaki have returned the favour, travelling up to the lake and over to Coromandel to help with kiwi calling.
The Bay of Plenty Regional Council (BOPRC) has also recently offered support to the project, joining with Ngā Whenua Rāhui to fund the intensification of the existing predator control network.
Like all community-based conservation projects, finding the funding to keep going is a challenge. The support of the BOPRC, Ngā Whenua Rāhui and Rayonier Forestry is a big help to the Trust. Writing a 10-year kiwi management plan for the entire Trust lands is now a priority, ensuring the best approach is taken to future work.
Kiwis for kiwi have been proud to support the Omataroa Kiwi Project, and thank the Bio-diversity Advice Fund for helping make this possible.