The Brynderwyns form a familiar and splendid backdrop to Mangawhai and the surrounding rural land. The native forest covering much of the southern face has significant biodiversity values. It is a habitat for many indigenous plants and animals, some of them threatened and rare. The streams contain Hochstetter’s frog, longfin eel and other aquatic species. Birdlife includes kaka, tomtit, bellbird, NZ Pigeon, tui and fernbird as well as more common species.
In 1987 a 423ha property on the southern slopes was purchased for conservation purposes by Katherine and Teddy Goldsmith. It came to be called Marunui and the private company formed to manage it is Marunui Conservation. Eighteen shareholders own the land in common and all is covenanted in perpetuity with the Queen Elizabeth Second National Trust.
With a vision to conserve and protect the natural values remaining and to restore those lost, we have gradually implemented programmes to control animal pests. Collectively, possums, mustelids (ferrets, stoats, weasels), rats, feral cats and pigs harm native plants and animals. Flowers, fruits and seeds are eaten; birds and their chicks are killed and their eggs taken. After a determined effort over many years pests have been reduced, forest health improved and bird numbers increased.
Kiwi had been absent from the Brynderwyns for nearly 50 years, having been wiped out by ferrets, stoats, cats and dogs. It was part of our vision to bring them back and we thought this might be possible in a managed area such as Marunui. In 2012 we were approached by the Department of Conservation and encouraged to apply for a kiwi translocation. The standards are high and the approval process long but finally, on a brilliant sunny day in April 2013, fourteen Northland brown kiwi arrived to an enthusiastic community welcome. Speeches were made, blessings given, waiata sung, hundreds of photos taken and later that historic day, as night fell, the birds were quietly set free in their new home.
Since then pairs have formed - Poppy and Motu, Speckle and Tamatea, Morton and Aroha, Ora and Anzac - names chosen by iwi, Mangawhai Primary pupils, the Cadets and others. Teddy and Goldie, from Matakohe/Limestone Island, have bonded. Rangiora, Ariki, Tahuhu and Beverley became the parents of chicks in December 2013, the first to be hatched in the Brynderwyns this century.
With kiwi comes responsibility. All have been tracked, recaptured for transmitter changes and health checks. Predator control must be maintained to a high level and this has been achieved with the willing assistance of local volunteers.
Chocolate kiwi eggs
Since the release the local community has embraced the kiwi as their own. It was a thrill to hear from Mary that Bennetts of Mangawhai wanted to support Marunui Conservation in our efforts to protect these treasured birds. To this end a 200g chocolate kiwi egg in a specially designed box has been created and $1 from every egg sold will be donated to Marunui’s work.
To celebrate and acknowledge this gift we arranged for a small release of kiwi in April 2014 attended by Mary and her staff. They chose the names Tiaki and Kōkō for two birds and Mary, Toni and Paul helped carry their crate to the release site. A special relationship has begun between Bennetts, Marunui and the kiwi.
The survival of Northland brown kiwi depends on efforts of groups like ourselves, the support of the Department of Conservation, the generosity of volunteers lending a hand, and people like Mary and her team who have committed to the cause. By working together we can make a difference and help save the kiwi.