Predator-free goal brings to life dreams of kiwi roaming capital

1:13 pm on 8 August 2018

New Zealand's rarest kiwi could one day roam the capital's hills as efforts to eradicate predators received major funding today.

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A future where brown kiwi, and possibly the rare rowi, are roaming Wellington backyards could be possible, Paul Ward of Capital Kiwi says. Photo: AFP

Predator Free Wellington and Capital Kiwi received a $3.27 million funding boost today, as they seek to eradicate possums, rats and stoats from Wellington.

Paul Ward of Capital Kiwi said he foresees a future where brown kiwi, and possibly the rare rowi, are roaming Wellington backyards alongside kākā and kererū.

"We can have kiwi [in Wellington] if we reduce the predator pressure, primarily stoats, and we provide suitable habitat," Mr Ward said.

"The habitat has a provisional thumbs up from the kiwi recovery scientists and managers, and it's steep, crumbly, scrubby north island hill country.

"The key thing over the next couple of years is getting rid of those key predators, primarily mustelids, stoats, and then showing we can keep them out. If we can do that, we can look at bringing our national symbol back to our back yard."

Rowi are the rarest species of kiwi in New Zealand, but Mr Ward said they have a surprising link to the lower North Island, making Wellington a potential home.

"There will be a type of brown kiwi, but, intrigingly, in the fossil records in Wellington the kiwi that was here was the rowi, which is at the moment our rarest kiwi and is only found in Okarito in South Westland," Mr Ward said.

"That population has been managed enough to be able to have potential conversations about bringing it back to a landscape like Wellington.

"We've got a bit of work to do before we have that conversation."

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said the project would help native plants and wildlife thrive.

"Wellingtonians have shown their commitment to saving nature by achieving the country's first predator free suburb with Crofton Downs, and a further 43 of the city's 52 suburbs are running active community-based predator control programmes," Ms Sage said.

"Wellington's Zealandia has also been inspiring. As New Zealand's first fenced sanctuary it has seen the return of many species of native birds, insects and lizards.

"They flourish behind the predator proof fences and species like tieke/saddleback are now nesting beyond the sanctuary."

Predator Free Wellington and Capital Kiwi will receive $15 million in funding over 10 years, including the $3.27 million announced today.

The project is community-led, relying on people to buy into the project by getting involved in trapping in their region.

There are 26 individual groups running trapping operations across Wellington suburbs.

Meanwhile possums have already been eradicated from Miramar Peninsula, while more than 1300 rats were caught in the area over the past year.