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Taranaki Kiwi Trust Celebrates its 20th Anniversary in October 2021

TKT Prince celebrating 20 years
TKT Logo 2012

On the 31st May 2001 seventeen people gathered to discuss concerns articulated at the meeting by local environmentalist Peter Winter about the plight of the Western Brown Kiwi in Taranaki. A wide cross-section of interested parties agreed that a separate entity would be more agile than official bodies who may not have legislative mandates, or resources for such a project.  A working party was set up as it was generally felt that a separate Trust, able to be identified as a local Taranaki initiative would be more likely to attract support both from the community and from potential sponsors. The working party was charged with the responsibility of finalising the Trust’s aims and objectives and appointing Trustees, in consultation with all of the interested parties. The group were certainly agile and on the 9th of October in the same year the Deed of the newly formed Taranaki Kiwi Trust (TKT) was signed.

The first trustees were Maggie Bayfield, Elaine Gill, Rex Hartley, Kevin Phillips, Elise Smith, Scott Sutherland and Barry Hartley as Chair, with Sir Paul Reeves as patron. Charitable Trust status was conferred on 4th December 2001. The New Plymouth Department of Conservation (DOC) office was very helpful in progressing an application for a contract for services and Taranaki Kiwi Trust was successful in obtaining $5,000 in funding. This allowed the organisation to contract Dave Bell to assist with the establishment and administration of the Trust. The next six months were very busy, setting up media appointments, a research proposal, starting a volunteer network and retrieving historic notes about kiwi from the DOC paper archives. A five-year strategic plan was formalised detailing the Trust’s ambitions that included, being an advocate and educator for kiwi, a facilitator linking all agencies working with kiwi, plus a focal point for data collection, analysis and local knowledge. The plan recognised the importance of kiwi to iwi, and working with iwi, DOC, landowners and managers to achieve kiwi conservation.

Roll the clock on 20 years and the Trust has grown into the leading agency for kiwi conservation in Taranaki, none of the original board members remain but there is a new cohort of educated and enthusiastic Trustees guiding the Trust. It now employs nine full and part time staff and contractors and has around fifty active volunteers assisting with its work.

The projects have been enduring and the organisation has not wavered from its mission and purpose set all those years ago. Education was a strong driver in the early days and this has continued, with the Trust delivering education and advocacy to hundreds of schools, community organisations and businesses during its lifetime.  Protecting kiwi in the wild was identified by the original board members as critical to their survival and in 2009 the Community Trapping Project was set up initially on just two properties. The project now has thirty-six private properties throughout the Taranaki region protecting wild kiwi by way of predator trapping networks. There are over 2300 traps spread over almost 20,000 ha, with many of these properties used to source founder birds for both the Taranaki Kōhanga Kiwi at Rotokare project (the Trust’s partnership with Rotokare Scenic Reserve Trust) and Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari in the Waikato by way of Operation Nest Egg (lifting kiwi eggs in the wild).

Taranaki Kōhanga Kiwi at Rotokare project was established in 2012, with the purpose to breed kiwi in a cost effective and safe environment, enabling kiwi to be translocated out to boost remnant populations and repopulate sites within the Western kiwi taxon region. This project has been incredibly successful and in the last two years seventy-eight kiwi have been exported to four other sites, including the Totara Block (a privately owned site managed by the South Taranaki Forest & Bird), to Taranaki Mounga and the Kaitake Ranges (in partnership with Taranaki Mounga Project) and Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari. It is anticipated 30-40 kiwi will continue to be translocated out annually.

Since 2005 the Trust has released one hundred and twenty-five kiwi on Taranaki Mounga and the Kaitake Ranges, in later years this has been in partnership with Taranaki Mounga Project. Presently twenty-three kiwi are being monitored on the two sites with many more scheduled for release in future years. After being involved in some of the first trapping efforts on the Mounga, the Trust still contributes to the predator control, with two groups of volunteers managing four traplines on a monthly rotation.

The future of the Trust is looking bright, they were a recipient of $480,000 Jobs for Nature funding earlier in the year and have several other funders supporting their efforts. A group of adept and skilled staff are supported by engaged Trustees and some very experienced volunteers

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