In July 2011, a large crowd gathered to witness the release of seven chicks. Hokio Terangi Ngataierua Tinirau, Tamahaki kaumatua, welcomed them with a moving karakia and powhiri.
Today, that vision has grown and the forest’s kiwi are star players in the Operation Nest Egg programme. Hūpai, the 1000th Operation Nest Egg chick, came from one of its burrows.
Waimarino Forest is near Tongariro National Park in the central North Island, just west of Ohakune. The on-the-ground kiwi work is delivered by Enviro Research Ltd, on behalf of the Whakamanu Wildlife Trust, which formed in 2000 to raise funds for the project.
The project’s main aim is to conduct Operation Nest Egg as part of Ernslaw One Ltd’s kiwi management regime. The goal is to, at a minimum, replace natural adult kiwi loss, and at a maximum, grow the population by around 2% a year.
Trust chairman and owner of Enviro Research, Kerry Oates, says Operation Nest Egg is a key tool in achieving sustainable forestry practices, providing invaluable advocacy for kiwi recovery on a national scale, and also in meeting the Trust’s goal of kiwi restoration in the Ruapehu region.
In 2009, forest management company Ernslaw One Ltd adopted the Operation Nest Egg costs as part of its ongoing kiwi management. This freed the Trust of a large fund raising burden and enabled it to focus on further kiwi protection measures. The Trust began offering kiwi avoidance dog training for regional hunting and pet dogs and now holds a large database, certifying more than 150 dogs each year. “We have been overwhelmed by the support shown by the greater Ruapehu region for this initiative,” Kerry says. “We are helping hunters achieve compliance with their permits while protecting kiwi at the same time. Our future plans also include greater pest control measures within the forest, working alongside iwi initiatives for employment opprtunities.”
Support for the project comes from a number of sources, including donation tins and community events. People can also make a personal donation to sponsor a kiwi chick. So far, major grants have come from the New Zealand Lottery Grants, Pacific Development Conservation Trust and the Kiwis for kiwi. As well, Ernslaw One Limited and the Department of Conservation’s Tongariro/Taupo and Wanganui conservancies provide major research and technical support.
Size of area under protection
The project area covers approximately 13,500 hectares and, within this, about 4500 hectares of native forest has been set aside to protect kiwi.
Kerry says the project’s biggest challenge has been to secure sufficient funding to meet the ongoing costs of Operation Nest Egg. Although the Trust operates on a voluntary basis, even without labour costs it urgently needs money to purchase monitoring equipment, and to cover the costs of dog avoidance training, fuel and transport, recharging transmitters and essential health screening for chicks returned to the forest.
“There have been many successes,” Kerry says, “including endorsement by, and a visit from iconic New Zealand singer/songwriter, Dave Dobbyn. In 2006, we named a chick ‘Dobbyn’ and in 2010, it became the first of our released juveniles to produce a third generation chick.” Dobbyn’s offspring was named ‘Waiata’ (song) and Kerry says the Trust was delighted when Dave, along with his wife and family, visited Waimarino Forest to take part in the release ceremony. “It was a very special and enjoyable day, and we were able to give Dave and his family a tour of Dobbyn’s forest territory, and recount the history of his namesake’s adventures and dispersal.”
The 1000th Operation Nest Egg chick. Hūpai, came from Waimarino Forest, and, more recently the 1000th chick to hatch at Rotorua’s Kiwi Encounter also came from the forest, Kerry says. “But perhaps our biggest success has been returning 100 juveniles to the wild in just over 10 years—quite an extraordinary effort for a small community-based charitable trust.”
Finally, Kerry says being able to research and determine the survival rate of released juveniles at around 80% is another milestone that has allowed the Trust to now release birds without transmitters, reducing costs, and safe in the knowledge that 8 of every 10 released birds will make it through to adulthood”.
The one most important thing
‘The important thing I would recommend for people starting a new kiwi project is to ensure they have sufficient funds for the project, and a continuing motivation to access more, if and when, required,’ Kerry says. This requires enough committed people to be involved to help raise funds. In his view, setting up a charitable trust is the best way to achieve this.
If you would like to learn more about the Trust and its work, or volunteer your efforts, you can contact its Chairman, Kerry Oates, at:
Phone: 07 332 2975
Postal address: P.O. Box 3, Ohakune