The Trustees are committed to protecting Kiwi and their natural habitat. The main focus of the project is the biodiversity rich Puhikoko Reserve (546 ha), which is home to kiwi, kereru and North Island Robin. For over ten years, the Trust has invested in environmental restoration including pest management and active Kiwi management to ensure a sustainable population for generations to come.
The Trust is supported by a range of project partners including; Nga Whenua Rahui, Matariki Rayonier Forests, Bay of Plenty Regional Council and the Kiwis for Kiwi Trust. A kawanata is in place over Puhikoko Reserve, and intensive predator trapping and poisoning is undertaken to control mustelids, rats, cats and possums. Regular kiwi aversion training is also held with the local Omataroa hunting club and kaitiaki work is undertaken with forestry contractors to prevent harm to kiwi during forestry operations.
The objective of the project is to protect the kiwi population and the wider biodiversity values of the forest, while also helping people reconnect to the whenua and develop their skills as kaitiaki. Ian Tarei leads the work on the ground, and has a strong interest in engaging whanau in kiwi conservation from a young age. Local kohanga reo are regular attendees at kiwi releases, and a group of Te Teko youth have been trained to undertake predator control and kiwi work.
Wild juvenile kiwi can been found in the area, highlighting the benefits to the kiwi population from the animal pest control and advocacy work. Chicks are removed and returned to the reserve once they have reached a safe weight. This has helped reinvigorate the resident kiwi population with young birds. Kiwi chicks have also been gifted to other local kiwi projects to help ensure a robust gene pool in the now isolated populations.
The long-term aim is to extend kiwi protection over the entire Omataroa area. Currently Rayonier Matariki Forests fund buffer trapping around Puhikoko Reserve, and there are plans to extend this network. Kiwi call count monitoring is also planned over a wide area to help direct the future expansion of the project.