Kiwi birds expected on Bluff Hill by 2028


Bluff Hill Motupōhue Environment Trust chairman Estelle Pera-Leask and project leader David Swann believe with their current predator controlling progress kiwis will be back on Bluff Hill by 2028.

Kavinda Herath/Stuff

Bluff Hill Motupōhue Environment Trust chairman Estelle Pera-Leask and project leader David Swann believe with their current predator controlling progress kiwis will be back on Bluff Hill by 2028.

The Bluff Hill Motupōhue Environment Trust has a bold new goal of re-introducing kiwi bird’s to Bluff Hill by 2028.

Motupōhue Environment Trust project leader David Swann said the use of new Kiwi-made technology coupled with receiving substantial jobs for Nature funding in 2021 had accelerated the trust’s predator control progress on the hill.

As a result, it was now confident both Tīeke, also known as South Island Saddleback, and kiwi birds could be re-introduced by 2028, when it is expected the hill will be largely predator-free.

“They are beautiful, stunning birds … but they are very susceptible … which is why predator-free is so important.”

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Much of the trust’s progress can be attributed to investments in new Kiwi-made trapping systems, such as the AT220 trap.

AT220s are a New Zealand-made innovation by NZ Autotraps, produced by rangatahi in Whakatāne.

It uses sensors to recognise when a predator is inside the trap, with welded metal jaws closing automatically and then opening within 30 or 40 seconds to release the carcass, and then automatically resetting.

The estimated cost of creating a predator-free environment to introduce kiwis into is expected to be $3 million, Motupōhue Environment Trust project leader David Swann said. [File photo]

Tom Lee/Stuff

The estimated cost of creating a predator-free environment to introduce kiwis into is expected to be $3 million, Motupōhue Environment Trust project leader David Swann said. [File photo]

A low-powered VHF transceiver is used to send a message to the trust when the trap is triggered.

The trust has undergone a world-first modification of the traps that allows it to detect exactly what type of predator has been caught using the vibrations released when the trap closes, which is then sent to the trust.

“With that adaptation, we’re going to be able to tell in real-time with a reasonable degree of certainty what predator has been caught. That’s a world first.”

In comparison to manual traps, which cannot be used once a predator is caught until cleared by a volunteer every two weeks, the new traps could catch “several” predators in a night.

A typical manual trap for possums is about $50, whereas the AT220s cost upwards of $400, but its efficiency made the investment worth it for the trust, he said.

“It’s remarkable … we’ve had several possums in a night, that alone justifies the cost.”

Trust chairman Estelle Pera-Leask said investment in the AT220s had been an “absolute game-changer” for the organisation.

The trust had successfully applied for funding from Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu through its Mahinga Kai Enhancement Fund to purchase an additional 150 traps to complement its current network.

“It’s a substantial donation from Ngāi Tahu, and we couldn’t be more grateful,” she said.

Estelle Pera-Leask, left, and David Swann checking a manual trap on Motupōhue (Bluff Hill).  Automatic trap AT220 has been an absolute “game-changer” for the organisation, Pera-Leask said.

Kavinda Herath/Stuff

Estelle Pera-Leask, left, and David Swann checking a manual trap on Motupōhue (Bluff Hill). Automatic trap AT220 has been an absolute “game-changer” for the organisation, Pera-Leask said.

Swann estimated the cost of achieving a predator-free Motupōhue to allow the re-introduction of kiwis and Tīake would be roughly $500 per hectare per year.

“For Motupōhue that is $500,000 per year until we can achieve predator-free, which we’re now confident we can do by 2028. That is a $3 million portfolio … Jobs for Nature was $680,000, which has allowed us to grow to this level,” he said.

He emphasized that tapping into both private and public funding sources would be a priority for the trust going forward.

The trust will need to apply and work with DOC to re-introduce both kiwis and Tīake once predator levels are low enough, which Pera-Leask said could happen as early as 2026.

“The planets are aligning for improved biodiversity, and Predator Free 2050 is at the forefront of that,” she said.

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