A project aimed at restoring North Island kokako to the Pirongia Forest Park is being backed by a $110,000 grant from Waikato Regional Council.
The successful natural heritage fund application, just approved by the finance committee, will help with the transfer of 40 “founder” birds from Pureora Forest and Tiritiri Matangi Island in the Hauraki Gulf to Pirongia.
The grant is to the Pirongia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society, a community organisation which has a range of projects underway in the park aimed at boosting natural biodiversity.
Kokako – a once common species now officially at risk - were present on Mt Pirongia till the 1990s when they were removed in the hope they would breed more successfully elsewhere.
Now birds, including some with “Pirongia genes”, are being brought back in the hope that kokako will re-establish themselves, with the support of existing pest control programmes being carried out in the park.
The transfer of the birds is scheduled to be carried out over three years, in conjunction with the Department of Conservation’s kokako specialist group. DoC has also provided significant funding in the lead-up to the project.
The end goal is the establishment of a large self-sustaining, genetically diverse group of more than 500 North Island kokako in the park.
Noting that iwi and public support for the project was very high, a report to the committee said that “a successful translocation will provide an opportunity for the regional community and the 35,000 visitors to Pirongia Forest Park each year to encounter kokako in their natural environment”.
The total cost of the project is expected to be just over $820,000 over four years.
Staff felt a grant towards the first year’s costs was appropriate as it would allow the society to see how the birds settle and to work to secure sources of funding for the next phases of the project.
The $110,000 grant is subject to completion of a satisfactory funding deed.
A project video is available at https://vimeo.com/album/4539329/video/213610486 (external link) . The password at that site is “kokako”.