In mid September, a dozen kiwi eggs were collected from nests in inland northern Hawke’s Bay under the Operation Nest Egg scheme and transported to hatching and rearing facilities at Rainbow Springs, Rotorua, and at Napier’s Westhaven Wildlife Reserve. Once the birds have hatched and grown to 800 grams—probably by April 2007—half will be transferred to a new reserve being created in the Cape Kidnappers area of Hawke’s Bay and the remainder returned to the forest from which the eggs were collected.
The project has several interesting aspects. The eggs were collected from a privately-owned forest and the Cape Kidnappers reserve is also a privately-funded conservation initiative. Maungataniwha, the egg collection site, is a 6,600 ha native forest bordering Te Urewera National Park. It and a second block, Pohokura of 11,300 ha, were both bought from logging companies by Simon Hall, the chairman of Tasti Products, and a man with a keen interest in preserving the environment. Both blocks are now held by Hall’s Forest Life Force Restoration Trust which is carrying our pest control (on predators, goats, possums and deer) and ecological restoration work. Between them, the two properties are home to 19 pairs of the increasingly rare blue duck, long and short-tailed bats, North Island fern bird, black shag, yellow-crowned kakariki, long-tailed cuckoo, kereru, grey duck, New Zealand falcons, kaka, North Island brown kiwi, skinks as well as mistletoe, the rare shrub Pittosporum turneri, and more. Twenty kilometres of foot access tracks are being cleared and a number of small huts erected.
In contrast, the intended destinationtion for some of the kiwi chicks, the Cape Kidnappers and Ocean Beach Wildlife Preserve, is dry coastal farmland with areas of teatree scrub. Topographically, the area is a peninsula and the owners of the land, Andy Lowe and Julian Robertson, are protecting a substantial 2200 ha area with a predator-proof fence across its broad neck. The fence, which will be between eight and nine kilometres long, is under construction at present and should be completed by the end of February 2007. Beach lies at both ends of the fence route and this cannot be fenced, so extensive predator control measures will be necessary there.
Another unusual feature of the project is that the fence will enclose a considerable swathe of working agricultural land-600 ha of pasture, 300 ha of pines plus 180 ha of kanuka and 200 ha of sand dunes behind Ocean Beach on the south side of the peninsula. A country club and golf course are also planned inside the enclosure. The balance of the land is coastal cliffs and gullies which will be re-vegetated with native plants. Burrow-nesting seabirds, which were once widespread on mainland New Zealand but have now almost entirely disappeared, will be reintroduced into these areas which should be ideal for such a project. Grey-faced petrel and fluttering shearwater will be the first seabirds introduced. Birds of this type return to the area in which they were raised, so large chicks will be brought into the reserve and installed in partly-buried wooden nesting boxes and hand-fed until they fledge. After three to five years away, they should return to the peninsula to breed. These introductions will be continued for at least five years, and in the project’s later stages, seabird calls will be broadcast to attract birds in at the appropriate time of year. Additional species of seabird and skink will also be brought in in future.
As regular readers of this magazine will appreciate, seabirds once played a vital role in replenishing the fertility of the land. Their droppings and food remains transferred plant nutrients from sea to land. The superphosphate we now spread from aircraft mimics this process, the phosphate being largely derived from old guano deposits.
Revegetation is underway in the preserve and volunteers have recently installed 120 nesting boxes for blue penguins behind Ocean Beach.
Although local volunteers are providing a lot of labour for the project, all costs, including the fence, are being met by the landowners.
Kiwi are just the first in what is intended to be a long line of introductions.