“When people start to understand each other’s projects and become part of something bigger at a regional level, the dynamic changes. Having that regional focus makes a big difference.”
The Coromandel has a long, strong, and very proud history of kiwi conservation. Home to one of the densest populations of kiwi in Aotearoa, the Coromandel has a wealth of experience and proven results in growing kiwi numbers and creating more kiwi-safe habitat.
The acknowledgement that greater results can be achieved through collaboration has resulted in the establishment of a separate entity that supports all conservation groups on the peninsula. Set up in 2017, the Predator Free Hauraki Coromandel Community Trust (PFHCCT) supports and promotes over 60 community conservation groups in the Hauraki Coromandel within the national Predator Free movement.
In 2020, PFHCCT was a successful recipient of Jobs for Nature funding through Save the Kiwi. The team set up the Kiwi at Home | Kiwi i te Kāinga project which brings together the six major kiwi conservation groups, iwi and DOC on the Coromandel. The focus is to expand the peninsula’s overall kiwi-safe footprint by bringing everyone together to work towards a common goal – creating more safe habitat and saving more kiwi.
Jude Hooson is the Chief Executive of PFHCCT. She says that much of the kiwi conservation success the Coromandel has seen over the years is thanks to the wealth of knowledge and the dedication of many volunteers working for decades on the peninsula.
“A number of kiwi conservation groups on the Coromandel have recently achieved 20-25-year milestones,” Jude says. “The level of expertise and cumulative effort over that timeframe has meant the Coromandel has been really successful in terms of kiwi recovery.”
Kiwi at Home | Kiwi i te Kāinga has been designed to take that success in kiwi conservation to the next level. Allowing the major kiwi projects to collaborate and work in partnership, learn from each other, and understand more about each other’s mahi draws everyone closer together – and closer to the singular goal of increasing kiwi on the peninsula.
Peer review of traps
Under the Kiwi at Home project, several initiatives have been created to bring groups together, learn more about the whenua, tikanga and kawa associated to culturally significant sites, improve current predator control protocol, and look to the future. A significant part of the project is a trapping peer review project, which seeks to ensure all projects are operating at 100% effectiveness with the traps they currently have in the field. The first 18 months of the project have focused on upskilling, including training by Save the Kiwi National Predator Control Advisor John Bissell, and collectively working on a trapping audit.
Collaboration is key here. Each project appoints a ‘navigator’ who hosts a ‘reviewer’ from a different project on a trapline. Together, they assess the traps (some of which have been out in the field for 20 years) and record what needs to be replaced or repaired. The goal is to make every trap in the ngāhere 100% operational and effective, before expanding their territory further. Since the beginning of the project, over 1000 traps have been reviewed (approximately 28% of the total trapping network).
Jude says that while trapping reviews have been important in creating regional trapping experts improving and increasing areas where kiwi are safe, bringing people together has also been a significant benefit.
“An important by-product of the project has been building a shared understanding of each other’s projects, landscape, biodiversity, and people. This has been foundational in terms of building collaboration between groups. I’m sure this was underestimated at the beginning, but everyone has been pleasantly surprised by the collegial value they have got from working with their peers.”
The cultural significance of the ngāhere
Another focus has been the reconnection of groups with mana whenua and increased cultural understanding of the whenua and ngāhere. Recently, PFHCCT’s iwi partner Pare Hauraki hosted close to 20 people at a two-day cultural wānanga on Te Paea marae, Harataunga Kennedy Bay.
“It really was a life-changing experience,” says Jude. “For some of our group it was their first overnight stay on a marae. It was a special opportunity to listen and connect, learn about mātauranga Māori, walk in the ngāhere, hear stories and worldviews of the taiao, and build cultural understanding of Pare Hauraki.”
Iwi trap building enterprise
Another aspect of PFHCCT’s partnership with Pare Hauraki is the establishment of a local trap-building social enterprise.
“This project has been a catalyst for that enterprise to get underway which has been very rewarding to see,” says Jude. “The first wave of traps will be available at the end of June which is very exciting. As we improve and expand our traplines, we will have an annual demand for traps. So not only are we creating more kiwi-safe habitat, but we’ve also been able to help support local employment and industry too.”
Kiwi call count monitoring
The PFHCCT team is in the throes of planning the first region-wide kiwi call survey on the Coromandel, scheduled for the end of June.
“Historically, kiwi call count monitoring has been carried out at intervals by individual projects, so this regionwide survey is an opportunity to create a new baseline of the region’s kiwi population from Moehau in the north to the Maratoto Valley in the south of the peninsula,” says Jude. “What makes this kiwi call count special is that we have a grid of more than 40 call sites across the peninsula and an army of enthusiastic volunteers who are really excited to get involved. This is the start of a three-year project which the region has a huge appetite for, so we’re excited to see what comes of it.”
Predator control versus people
Since the Kiwi at Home | Kiwi i te Kāinga project was established in early 2021, it has seen great success. Thanks to Jobs for Nature funding, 42 fulltime, part-time, and contractor roles have been created, directly impacting the local economy.
The social enterprise component of the project is off to a great start, with the first traps expected to roll off the production line in the next few weeks. Three training sessions with John Bissell have increased trapping capability and united people around some core predator control standards. One cultural wānanga has been held, and the intention is to hold two a year for the rest of the duration of the project. The trapping peer review is expected to hit a third of the network by the end of the project year, and the kiwi call count survey will allow projects to see regional data and trends, not just at a project level.
But Jude says the true success of the project is less about ticking off milestones and more about bringing people together.
“The next 12 months are all about consolidation and bedding in,” says Jude. “It’s making sure we have the programme running optimally and efficiently, and looking ahead, building sustainability.
“But more than anything else, it’s about the people. Building relationships between groups and people is a true investment into the future of kiwi conservation on the peninsula. When people start to understand each other’s projects and become part of something bigger at a regional level, the dynamic changes. Having that regional focus makes a big difference.”