In 1993, the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, a non-government conservation organisation, joined with the Department of Conservation and Bank of New Zealand to found the Kiwi Recovery Trust.
Ever since then it has had a seat on the Kiwi Recovery Group which, since 2003, has been filled by Kevin Hackwell, Forest and Bird’s advocacy manager.
With a background as an ecologist, including time with the former Department of Scientific and Industrial, Research (DSIR), Kevin says he brings a mix of knowledge and experience to the group in his role as community representative.
Forest and Bird was one of the chief advocates for research on kiwi, and funding for kiwi conservation, Kevin says, even before the true plight of the species became known in the early 1990s. ‘Being on the Kiwi Recovery Group is a great thing to be involved with, given that we were there from the beginning.’
Kevin is proud of the 10-year kiwi recovery plan, published in 2008. ‘It was developed through a really good process and it makes some important and good decisions; things we’ll look back on in 10 years time and know were good things to do,’ he says.
One example is the decision on what to do with hybrid kiwi, born in captivity of mating between the western and eastern races of brown kiwi. ‘We realised that, in fact, there would always have been hybrid kiwi zones in New Zealand as the different populations mixed, and that one of those places would have been the south of the North Island. There would have been east-west mixing there in the past, and we’ve realised and acknowledged that hybrid birds are not actually a problem – it’s appropriate for them to go to places such as the Rimutaka Forest Park kiwi project.’
For Kevin, his busy advocacy manager role means there are a great many conservation issues on his plate besides kiwi. ‘It means I can’t give as much time as I would like to the Kiwi Recovery Group, and I sometimes envy others around the table who are very focused on kiwi. But I’ve learnt over the years that what I can contribute from the community perspective, and using my background in ecology and advocacy, is still valuable.’
Thoughts for the future
Kevin is an optimist. ‘Not to detract from how serious the situation is for all the unmanaged populations, but we are managing every one of the taxa,’ he says. And, thanks to New Zealand signing the Kyoto Protocol which commits it to reducing climate changing emissions, the future looks even more promising. ‘There will soon be a time where we will be doing huge areas of pest control in New Zealand because it will make economic sense to protect forests because they store carbon. Pest control to protect those carbon credits will be of huge benefit to kiwi and other native species,’ he says.
Finally, Kevin says, the market is beginning to realise what ecologists have always known – that there is a clear link between environmental health and economic health . And that will be good for kiwi.