Located in the western Bay of Plenty, 25 kilometres southwest of Tauranga, the Department of Conservation reserve is the focus of the Otanewainuku Kiwi Trust, formed in 2002.
This community-based conservation trust was initiated by Te Puke branch of Forest and Bird after a survey revealed brown kiwi numbers within the forest had dropped sharply, from around 50 birds in 1984 to just 5 in 2006. Other native species, including the beautiful songbird, Kokako, were also suffering at the jaws of stoats, ferrets, feral cats and dogs.
The Trust operates under a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Conservation. Local iwi support and assist its vision – to protect and restore the indigenous ecosystem and biodiversity of Otanewainuku.
To that end, the Trust manages Kiwi and Kokako reintroductions and carries out intensive predator control – targeting stoats, rats and possums. All dogs are banned from the forest. Volunteers maintain the Trust’s integrated pest management programme, which has benefits for all plants and animals at Otanewainuku, including brown kiwi and Kokako.
Size of area under protection
Otanewainuku reserve covers 1200 hectares of ancient virgin forest, of which 1000 hectares is the focus of the Trust’s integrated pest management plan. The mature forest’s thick carpet of leaf litter holds more than 1000 species of insects, which in turn provide a rich source of food for kiwi, other birds, geckos and skinks.
Trust Chair, Hans Pendergrast, says there are many challenges, but the greatest is keeping fully engaged with the wider community. This includes working with local Iwi, managing volunteers to keep them involved and enthusiastic, running education programs at local schools and connecting with the thousands of visitors who come to Otanewainuku every year. ‘We are slowly educating local dog owners and hunters to keep their animals out of the kiwi zone, and we are working hard to keep the community engaged, through education programs and the print and social media.’ Quarterly newsletters are sent out and are available on the Trust’s website along with a copy of our latest strategic plan.
Predator control has been so successful that the Trust has been able to reintroduce brown kiwi and Kokako to Otanewainuku. Initially the reintroductions of young Kiwi were not successful. With the use of a kiwi crèche provided by the Wallace family trust more mature birds are introduced and Kiwi in the forest now number 13 with ~10 more young adult birds being added each year. In 2010 and 2011 a total of 19 Kokako were translocated from neighbouring Rotoehu and Kaharoa forests. With successful breading, and a further 11 birds translocated from Kaharoa in 2016, Kokako numbers at Otanewainuku are now approaching 40 with at least 12 breading pairs.
The one most important thing
Kiwi projects depend on community support, Hans says, which can come as time, expertise and/or money. Initial funding to set up the Trust and put in stoat trap lines came from Environment Bay of Plenty, via a grant to Te Puke Forest and Bird. Since then many Government and business organisations, fund managers and individuals have supported the Trust.
Today, the lifeblood of this Trust are its many dedicated volunteers, who walk thousands of kilometres each year and collectively donate about 5000 hours.
If you would like to learn more about the Otanewainuku Kiwi Trust and its work, volunteer your efforts or donate, go to www.kiwitrust.org or contact:
Contact name: Suzanne Williams, secretary
Postal address: PO Box 9311 Tauranga
Contact name: Melanie Norton, Trustee