Kiwi inside burrow.

The important brown kiwi habitat around Whakatāne will receive added protection through an iwi-led predator free project announced by Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage and Under Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau.

“The Government is investing nearly $5 million ($3.211 million USD) into Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa’s environmental projects with $2.5 million ($1.605 million USD) committed from the Department of Conservation’s Job for Nature program and $2.4 million ($1.541 million USD) from Predator Free 2050 Limited through the Provincial Growth Fund.

“The flagship Korehaha Whakahau project will remove possums from 4,700 hectares over five-years,” said Eugenie Sage.

“This is an ambitious project designed to remove possums completely from the area bordered by the Whakatāne River, Ōhope beach, and the Ōhiwa harbour. It will use the latest predator detection and trapping techniques,” said Eugenie Sage.

As well as the $2.5 million ($1.605 million USD) from DOC and $2.4 million ($1.541 million USD) from Predator Free 2050 Limited, the $5.6 million ($3.596 million USD) project will receive contributions from Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa and Ngāti Awa Group Holdings.

Korehaha Whakahau is the eighth large landscape project funded by Predator Free 2050 Limited and the first to be delivered by an iwi entity.

“The Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa led environmental projects will benefit locals who are looking for work and who have been affected by the Whakaari disaster and COVID-19 downturn. It’s expected to see 10 jobs created immediately with an extra 30 within a year,” said Fletcher Tabuteau.

“The funding will help Ngāti Awa retain its workforce in the short term, while helping build its long-term aspiration to create viable sustainable employment opportunities within the Eastern Bay of Plenty,” said Fletcher Tabuteau.

Eugenie Sage said the project builds on the predator control work of community organisations, councils and the Department of Conservation in the area, which has helped a population of around 300 North Island brown kiwi to thrive close to Whakatāne.

“It enables a mātauranga lens to be brought to the predator free mission with emphasis on cultural as well as biodiversity values.”

The iwi will work closely with partner organisations, groups and funders to create a network of monitoring devices and traps, and defensive lines to remove possums, across a mix of private, public and Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa owned land.

“While this project is funded with $2.4 million from a $19.5 million Provincial Growth Fund investment in Predator Free 2050 Ltd, more recently the government has provided significant extra funding to supercharge environmental projects across Aotearoa as part of the $1.3 billion ($835 million USD) jobs for nature package,” said Eugenie Sage.

“The funding is helping the Whakatane community as well as giving kiwi and local forests a helping hand,” said Eugenie Sage.

The Eastern Bay of Plenty has retained important populations of kiwi, weka, kōkako, New Zealand falcon/kārearea, Australasian bittern/matuku, Banded rail/moho pererū and New Zealand robin/toutouwai, which have the potential to benefit from enhanced predator control and restoration efforts.