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Newsletter ~ December 2006 Issue

Aroha Island: Will it remain our home?

The NZ Kiwi Foundation came into existence because of Aroha Island Ecological Centre and local demand to protect kiwi.

However, times and management philosophies change, and the Queen Elizabeth II National Trust (which owns freehold title to Aroha) has decided that it will no longer operate Aroha Island Ecological Centre as it has done since opening the Centre in 1996.

Aroha will close to the public at the end of March 2007. The National Trust is seeking a commercial lease of the property.

The trustees of the NZ Kiwi Foundation have met several times with the CEO (Margaret McKee) and one of the Directors of the National Trust (Yvonne Sharp), but to no avail thus far.

As a community organisation we cannot pay a commercial lease. To try to do so would put too great a strain on our limited resources. Some may say that is our problem and that the National Trust has the right to do what it wishes with its property. Our reply to this is 'yes' and 'no'. Aroha is a rather peculiar situation.

Its original owner, Colin Little, sold Aroha to the National Trust at a fraction of its market value on the understanding that it would always be owned by the National Trust and that it would be developed only for educational and public visitation purposes.

The National Trust bought Aroha in 1991 using a bequest 'for educational purposes'.

Children enjoying an educational day out at Aroha Island Ecological Centre

Children enjoying an educational day out at Aroha Island Ecological Centre

Under the guidance of Stuart Chambers, the island was set-up as a birding destination with an information centre, camping and accommodation.

Most of this was funded through contestable public funding agencies and private donations. Additional assets such as kayaks, the toilet block and the observation platform in the mangrove forest were funded by Lotteries, ASB Trusts, and groups such as Waipapa Rotary.

Whilst the NZ Kiwi Foundation came into being because of Aroha Island Ecological Centre, the Foundation has no formal arrangement with the National Trust about the use of Aroha.

Our initial response to the National Trust was to suggest that a peppercorn lease be agreed whereby the Kiwi Foundation would undertake to operate the island at no net cost to the Trust and to promote the activities of the National Trust. This proposal was not accepted.

Despite the uncertain future of Aroha, the NZ Kiwi Foundation will continue and expand its operations. However, it won't have the ideal home which Aroha provides.

Pest Monitoring

We have been able to increase our pest management in Far North District recently owing to grants from the Aotearoa Foundation, Northland Regional Council and the ASB Community Trust.

Rattus norvegicus

Rattus norvegicus

The thrust is twofold: to undertake pest monitoring and to adjust our pest management systems to reflect the results of the monitoring.

We monitor using three methods: ink tracking cards in black plastic tunnels, wax tabs and cat traps.

The main result thus far has been the discovery that whilst we control all pest animals well, we have altered the balance in rat presence by removing the bulk of the ship rats Rattus rattus and allowing the water rat Rattus norvegicus to expand territories in the absence of ship rats.

For our projects we intentionally place bait stations well off the ground to prevent kiwi accessing toxin. However, water rats cannot climb well and hence our new problem.

The solution was simple - make the bait stations more accessible to water rats and set poison feeders on the ground in such a way that our ground-dwelling birds cannot obtain toxin.

Water rats aside, the pest monitoring results were reasonably predictable. It is possible to control mammal pests within large, protectable areas better than on isolated blocks.

Thus the best pest monitoring results were achieved on Kerikeri, Purerua and Russell peninsulas. Mainland project areas such as Paitu, Kauri Cliffs, Takou Bay, and East Herekino tended to have low pest numbers furthest from the project perimeters and higher counts near the edges. Individual, legally protected blocks reflected this pattern and results were correlated with size - better control is achieved on bigger blocks like Humphreys Bush (90 ha.), Paponga, Matthews Reserve, Kaitaia (70ha.) and Whangape Station (800ha).

Moving Closer to Auckland...

Okahukura (Tapora) Peninsula pest-free zone

The NZ Kiwi Foundation is assisting Tapora Landcare Group to remove mammal pests from the 10,000 hectare peninsula.

Okahukura is a relatively 'greenfield' project on the Okahukura Peninsula located west of Wellsford.

From our point of view, it is an opportunity to demonstrate and compare the actual costs of such a project using the private enterprise model that we operate in Far North.

Whilst there are no kiwi in this area at the moment, 10 chicks were released two weeks ago at Tawharanui Regional Park, only 30 kms away.

Eventually, surplus kiwi and other birds will be translocated to Okahukura. Pest monitoring is under way at present and the pest control will begin after Christmas when additional funding should be available.

Strategic Plan

For members of the NZ Kiwi Foundation, a copy of our Strategic Plan is included with this newsletter. Please email us with your comments.

Time to Stop Speeding Drivers Killing Kiwi

                                                                                            Ross Lockyer spreads the sad news

Ross Lockyer spreads the sad news

The death of another North Island brown kiwi on the road at Doves Bay, Kerikeri, has prompted a long-time resident to ask: what will it take for drivers to slow down?

Ross Lockyer a resident of Doves Bay Road and a trustee of the New Zealand Kiwi Foundation found the male brown kiwi dead by the side of the road near his house on Sunday.

The body was only metres from a “Protect Our Kiwi” sign and two painted kiwis on the road - all supposed to warn drivers to be careful.

The Department of Conservation confirmed that the kiwi was male and had indeed been killed by a car.

The discovery was heartbreaking for Ross: “I have spent years trapping, poisoning and shooting pests such as possums, rats, stoats and feral cats as well as ensuring dogs in this area are on leads - all to protect our kiwi.”

According to DoC figures, about 3 kiwi every year for the past 10 years have been killed on the short stretch of Rangitane, Opito Bay and Doves Bay Roads.

DoC believes some drivers, thinking kiwi are possums, speed up and deliberately run them over.

But kiwi can look very like a possum at night, says Adrian Walker, DoC's Programme Manager Biodiversity Assets in the Bay of Islands area office.

“Drivers should slow down at night in kiwi areas and not purposefully run things over as they could well be kiwi.”

Kiwi Foundation convenor Greg Blunden agrees.

“The essence of the problem lies in people recognising that kiwi are here, slowing down and taking care not to run-over any animals on the road.”

To remind drivers to slow down Ross has painted a sign in fluorescent paint on the site where the kiwi was killed.

“It may at least make residents and visitors aware of what can, and does, happen,” he says.

“Hopefully they will help get the message through to that odd hoon that doesn't seem to care what he runs over on the road.” He says residents know the vehicles that regularly speed and are hoping for more intensive policing.

“If anyone can come up with any other ideas to prevent further kiwi carnage, then I and the New Zealand Kiwi Foundation would certainly like to hear from them.”

New Sponsor

Merinosilk NZ, part of Aotea Souvenirs, has become a sponsor of the NZ Kiwi Foundation.

We believe the company will be excellent sponsors as they use possum fur in the making of Merinosilk.

Merinosilk is a blend of merino wool, New Zealand possum fur and silk.

The Brushtail possum is a mammal pest, but its fur has a hollow structure which is ideal for creating warm and lightweight garments.

The company was established by Joan and Peter Hanson in 1979 and is 100% New Zealand owned and operated.

The Hansons' plan to use their five large souvenir retail stores to sell selected items which will carry a donation to the NZ Kiwi Foundation in their price.

Kiwi Reserve Land. We are becoming landowners

Landowners at Russell are in negotiations with the NZ Kiwi Foundation with a view to handing over ownership of up to 8 hectares of land.

The (subdivision) reserve land is to be given to the NZ Kiwi Foundation on conditions of perpetual protection covenants, integrated pest management, pet bans, a re-vegetation project, and eventual public access.

We expect these initiatives to develop further and see kiwi reserve ownership and management as an intrinsic part of the operations of the NZ Kiwi Foundation.

Kiwi Found on Kerikeri Bypass Route

A huge female kiwi of 3.5 kilograms was found by Steve McManus on the new Kerikeri bypass route - on the Kerikeri side of town!!!!!

No others were located despite lots of attempts in the early morning with kiwi dog 'Maggie'.

This kiwi is now re-located in a protected and managed area up the Kerikeri River towards Puketi Forest.

Impromptu Kiwi Presentation

Ross Lockyer, supported by David Barker and Lynette Smith, presented a very well received “everything you ever wanted to know about kiwi and how to protect them” at the request of Doves Bay residents at their recent festive get together.

All these residents would like to receive future copies of the Kiwi Foundation newsletter.

                                                                                    “Anyone for tennis? This kiwi's game”

Ross Lockyer spreads the sad news

Christmas Party

This year's Christmas party is at Aroha Island, beginning at 5 p.m. on Friday 22nd December. NZ Kiwi Foundation will provide basic food - please bring a plate and drink. As usual, camping is available if you want to stay overnight.

Update on the Robin Project.      Can you help?

Two trips have been made to the Mangatutu block to prepare for the capture of North Island robin for the Russell release in autumn next year.

Gay, Pauline and Laureen successfully fed mealworms to robin during the second visit, and with Laurence Gordon identified territories from which the robin will be captured later on.

If you wish to help in the pre-capture and capture activities especially during the Easter school holidays at Mangatutu, please contact Gay Blunden 021 710 441 or email

NZ Kiwi Foundation Trustees:

Dr. Greg Blunden (Convenor)
Edwin de Wilde (Treasurer)
Russell Thomas
Ross Lockyer
Howard Smith
Lindsay Charman
Kerry Walshe

Newsletter - Kiwi PR - Paul & Helen Denny