OMATAROA Kiwi Project will celebrate its 10th anniversary this weekend with a function for more than 100 guests.
Project manager Ian Tarei said the evening at Te Manuka Tutahi Marae was a thank-you to the groups and people who had helped it achieve its goals.
But he is adamant once the night is over, it will back to the grindstone working to grow the project with the outlook of creating a predator-free corridor from Te Urewera to the Rangitaiki Plains.
The project began in 2007 and Mr Tarei has been with it from the start. He said the platform for the project was laid in 2001 and 2005 when pest eradication programmes were carried out in the Puhikoko reserve.
The reserve is part of a 7777-hectare block administered by the Omataroa-Rangitaiki No 2 Trust on behalf of its 6000 shareholders.
Mr Tarei said the project also received a big boost in 2006 when it secured Nga Whenua Rahui funding from the Department of Conservation for its first three years.
Since then the project has been supported by the trust and forestry company Matariki Forest, and Mr Tarei said it had been able to achieve several of its objectives.
He said second generation birds were now having their chicks and the forest was thriving.
“They say it takes years to see any difference and, well, we have been there for 16 years and to be honest the place is just pumping.”
Mr Tarei said during those years there had been many highlights including winning the kaitiaki leadership section of the ministry of environment’s Green Ribbon awards and being awarded $40,000 in funding from Kiwis For Kiwi, the largest grant awarded.
However, Mr Tarei said one of the stand out points came early on in the project.
“When we first started, we had a whole lot of mischievous guys that helped with the project. It was good to get them off the street and in to work and teaching them to be kaitiaki (guardians) on their own land.”
He said the objective of the project was to protect the kiwi population and the wider bio-diversity values of the forest, while also helping people reconnect to the whenua and develop their skills as environmental guardians.
Mr Tarei said he was also proud that they were able to give back to those groups, such as the Lake Waikaremoana Hapu Restoration Trust and Whakatane Kiwi Project, by becoming mentors to other groups around the country.
He said in the next couple of months he was booked to travel to Mahia and Whanganui to talk to Maori trusts who were keen on setting up their own kiwi projects.