What a year! It would be easy when reflecting on the year gone by to think about what this resurgence of Covid and the extended lockdown (for those of us in Auckland) has meant. But I’m not going to because all of that aside, it has been an incredible year for Save the Kiwi and there are way more positives than negatives. Our feathered friends and furry foes don’t know that a virus is sweeping the world. They are still doing what they do. And that has meant us keeping our focus and doing what we do.

So here are some highlights – a few of the many – of the year gone by.

The Jobs for Nature projects we are funding have created more than 57,000 hours of paid employment across 10 projects that are up and running, and are on track to creating more than 100,000ha of safe habitat for current or future kiwi populations.

Thinking ahead to 2025 when the $19.7 million Jobs for Nature funding package we received ends, earlier this year we launched the Save the Kiwi Endowment fund. The launch event was emceed by Miriama Kamo – who we welcomed on board as a trustee in November – and our two newly appointed patrons. You may have heard of them – Helen Clark and Sir John Key. They have lent their time, energy, and names to a cause that transcends political leanings.

We are incredibly fortunate to have a committed portfolio of sponsors who (fortunately for all of us) are in industries that have weathered the Covid storm. Crombie Lockwood renewed their support for another three years, Jarden blew us away with their “Save the Kiwi Day” which generated a $350,000 donation, and this year we welcomed Signature Homes, First Mortgage Trust, and The Hatchery to the sponsorship whānau.

We also welcomed Lisa Carrington to our family of ambassadors, and are thrilled that her and Colin (her charming cavoodle) will help deliver messages to fellow dog owners about keeping kiwi safe this holiday season.

During our national Save the Kiwi Week campaign in October, we introduced our new Save the Kiwi brand to the world. As a name, it is clearer and more obviously states what our mission is. The imagery is fresh, vibrant, and energetic and a welcome departure from the browns and greens that are common in this industry. But most importantly, it pays respect to te reo Māori, in which Māori words are not pluralised with an ‘s’, as we had in our previous name.

We have an incredible team, a growing revenue base, and a vibrant brand. All of these are important components of the machine that will help save the kiwi. But how did we do on the ground, where it really counts?

At the Crombie Lockwood Kiwi Burrow, our incubation facility, we closed off the 2019/20 season with a tally of 104 kiwi eggs successfully hatched and chicks out the door to their new homes (many of them to Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari). Within the same calendar year the new season has begun, and as I write this nearly 60 chicks have hatched. Our kiwi creche in Napier is currently full, with 23 chicks on site, being grown to a safe 1kg ‘stoat-proof’ weight before being released to the wild.

Probably the highlight of the year for me personally, though, came from the results of a kiwi survey on Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari, a kōhanga site for Western brown kiwi. Over the past four years, we have released over 250 kiwi chicks to the maunga, to accelerate the growth of the existing kiwi population there to a point where it can be used a source of kiwi to create new populations in safe places in the wild, or bolster existing ones. Our population survey puts the estimated population at around 1000 kiwi (plus or minus) and we are now at the point where juveniles (at a safe 1kg weight) can be removed and released to the wild. We’ll start with a few at first, but eventually we’ll hundreds per year. This is what our kōhanga strategy has always been about: creating a source of kiwi that will help build the wild populations.

Those are a few highlights from Save the Kiwi, but every group out there working to protect kiwi will have their own highlights (and lowlights) to share. We are part of a nationwide effort with hundreds of groups and thousands of people involved.

In the coming calendar year, DOC’s kiwi scientist will be preparing an updated five-yearly estimate of the national kiwi population (overall, and by species). I am hopeful that with all the mahi being done by Māori-led and community-led groups (especially on the North Island) that we are going to see the needle move.

I am optimistic we are making good progress. The fight is far from over and we can’t take our foot off the gas, but if this year was anything go by kiwi have an incredibly good chance of thriving again.

So as I happily say “farewell” to 2021, it is with gratitude for all that we achieved, not remorse for what we couldn’t do, and I look forward to what 2022 brings.

Have a safe and happy holiday season and thank you to everyone out there who has in some way contributed to this national movement to save the kiwi.

Michelle Impey
Save the Kiwi Executive Director

Photo: (L-R) Western Coordinator Michelle Bird, National Predator Control Advisor John Bissell, and Save the Kiwi Executive Director Michelle Impey at a Jobs for Nature project in Taranaki.