Kiwi return to the wilds of Wellington

From Our Changing World, 5:00 am on 13 April 2023

Imagine taking an evening walk around the fringes of the capital city and hearing the call of the kiwi.

Well, you no longer need to imagine.  

A woman cradles a kiwi on her lap while a man looks at the kiwi.

Kiwi release in Wellington. Photo: Dave Allen /

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This vision of kiwi once again roaming the windswept hills on the outskirts of Wellington is becoming reality with the arrival of 11 North Island brown kiwi, set free in the scrubby landscapes around Mākara late last year. 

This flock is just the beginning. The ambitious Capital Kiwi project plans to bring back 250 kiwi over the next six years to re-establish a thriving population on 23,000 hectares of land that stretches from the Red Rocks on Wellington’s south coast all the way to Porirua. The first pioneers are a gift from the Ōtorohanga Kiwi House and Ngāti Hinewai to the local community and Taranaki Whānui.  

A man wearing a cap stands behind a tree trunk with a camera trap attached to the trunk.

Paul Ward setting up a remote camera to capture images of kiwi. Photo: Dave Allen /

The Mākara community have put in years of hard work (and more than 4500 traps) to clear introduced predators and make the area as safe as possible for the new residents. 

“In unmanaged sites, 95% of chicks are eaten by stoats. To grow a kiwi population, you have to have one in five chicks survive, but we’re aiming to do much better than that,” says project founder and leader Paul Stanley Ward. “What we’d like to have is a self-sustaining, wild, free-ranging population of kiwi where they can live as they have done for millions of years in these hills.” 

A man kneels next to a wooden boxed trap on a grassy hillside. He is holding a dead stoat by the tail. There is a cow standing behind him staring at him.

Jeff Hall with a trapped stoat. Photo: Dave Allen /

“Fundamentally, if our relationship with a bird like the kiwi ends up being behind a fence or in a zoo, we’ll lose our aroha to care for them. But we know we can recover kiwi populations – and for us, it’s about doing that in the backyard of our capital city.” 

Thank you to Dave Allen for providing photos for this story.

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