Eco-index tool helps biodiversity

Thursday, July 4th, 2024

A digital tool that guides native habitat restoration is helping inform a landscape restoration project in Taranaki to make bigger gains.

Eco-index, a research programme established by New Zealand’s Biological Heritage National Science Challenge, has developed a science-based tool for working out the best places to target restoration efforts, such as native plantings.

Eco-index recently delivered their “Reconstruction Heat Map” to Taranaki Mounga Project to support their restoration decision-making. The tool uses GIS mapping layers to work out the best locations to reconstruct native ecosystems where they no longer exist.

Dr Kiri Joy Wallace

“The Reconstruction Heat Map helps people to identify the best “bang-for-buck” places to reconstruct native ecosystems from scratch,” says Dr Kiri Joy Wallace, Eco-index Co-Director. “We’ve designed our tools to help land managers maximise the chance of improving their local biodiversity while effectively using their precious time and resources”.

Sera Gibson, Taranaki Mounga Poutohu Matua Taurua/Co-Director says the tool is being used in restoration planning to help consider how the project might evolve. “It brings the ecology and science part of the puzzle together and puts it in a really accessible place along with our deep local knowledge, contextualising where we could get the most value for the taiao.”

Taranaki Mounga Co-director Sean Zieltjes adds that one of the big lessons learned is that restoration doesn’t stop at park boundaries and to aim bigger, given what’s already been achieved with the project.

“We’re using the heat map tool as an input – it adds rigour to the conversation, if connectivity between the maunga and the moana is to be achieved here’s where effort could be prioritised to ensure ecological integrity.”

With the BioHeritage National Science Challenge wrapped up last month, Eco-index’s interdisciplinary team is branching out on their own, continuing to offer information that benefits biodiversity.


Graduating apprentice’s journey

Thursday, July 4th, 2024

Whitikau Rio only ventured on Taranaki Maunga a few times with his whānau when he was growing up in South Taranaki.

The last two years as an apprentice ranger with Taranaki Mounga Project has turned that around, reconnecting him with the maunga, where he’s out and about on most days.

Whitikau (of Ngā Rauru, Ngā Ruahinerangi, Ngāti Ruanui) is now adept at navigating through the ngahere, whether that be setting new trap-lines, checking and baiting traps in the thousands, monitoring and handling kiwi or engaging with the community.

Completing the Jobs for Nature and PredatorFree 2050 NZ-funded apprenticeship, including a Level 4 Certificate in Conservation, is a milestone for Whitikau: “It’s a big accomplishment for me coming out of factory work and putting my intentions into something better.”

He enjoys being in nature and protecting biodiversity as part of Haumanuhia Te Hononga  Taiao, a partnership between Te Korowai o Ngāruahine and Taranaki Mounga Project based on the southern side of Taranaki Maunga.

“Highlights for me would be I’m more surrounded in my culture again – visiting marae around the mountain, listening to whakaaro there, and meeting similar organisations doing similar mahi.”

Whitikau Rio

He says his work and personal life also connect in a more meaningful way, such as his physical fitness from the mountain helping his mau rākau, Māori mixed martial arts training, and his mentoring and leadership work with rangatahi.

Last year, Whitikau organised a 4-day wānanga with about 20 rangatahi, part of Te Kawa o Rongo programme. He says it was a personal highlight for him that built upon his experiences and growing leadership with Taranaki Mounga Project. “It was about tikanga and kawa and how to be a good role model and responsive. We stayed on the mountain for 4 days and visited special sacred places and had  kōrero around the stories and their meaning to mana whenua.”

His advice for those considering working in the restoration space: “This job is not meant for everyone, it can be physically and mentally challenging but if you are a person that likes to explore and be out in the taiao and you have a good sense of manaaki – values of protection within yourself, go for it.”

Whitikau also shares about his journey on social media, which is creating a ripple effect. “It has shifted a change of heart with my peers and my whānau, leading in that space,” he says.

Poutohu matua taurua Sera Gibson says Whitikau possesses the skills and qualities of a young leader. “Humble and gentle in the way he holds himself, he assumes the role of Pouhāpai, naturally uplifting others around him.

“Whitikau has achieve some significant professional and personal milestones during his time as part of our team. We are proud of him and look forward to seeing what tomorrow brings,” she says.



A day in the life…

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2024
A day in the life of ranger/pou atawhai Tāne Houston on Radio NZ’s Country Life programme today. Reporter Sally Round interviews Tāne out and about on Taranaki Maunga. A great listen!

The fantastic legacy of NEXT

Wednesday, March 27th, 2024

Taranaki Mounga is proud to have partnered with strategic philanthropists NEXT.

From 2014 to 2024, NEXT have invested more than $100 million in support of
environment, education and strategic philanthropy in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Take a read of their review looking back over the past 10 years as their organisation sunsets.

Annette and Neil and the team at NEXT have been transformation for how conservation is done, helping Taranaki Mounga Project get outcomes beyond anything first envisaged!


The NEXT Review

Successes, learning and the future

NEXT_Milestones_poster_v3.pdf (

More and more kiwi released

Wednesday, March 27th, 2024

Cast from The Mountain check out a kiwi with Ranger Jess Fancy

Kiwi release season is in full swing with 34 kiwi having been released on Taranaki Maunga, with many more to come.

Over the next two months more than 100 kiwi are expected to be released at various sites across Taranaki Maunga.

A ceremony at Stratford Mountain House on March 21 marked the first kiwi release of the 2024 season. Those kiwi were raised at the Taranaki Kōhanga Kiwi at Rokokare, a long-term partnership between Taranaki Kiwi Trust and Rotokare Scenic Reserve Trust, inland from Eltham.

Kiwi released this week in Te Papa-Kura-o-Taranaki near Lucy’s Gully on Kaitake and near York Road were the first kiwi to have come from Sanctuary Mountatin Maungatautari, in South Waikato, in partnership with Ngāti Koroki Kahukura and Save the Kiwi.

Taranaki Mounga Project co-director Sean Zieltjes says this season is a significant step-up in how many kiwi are being re-homed at Te Papa-Kura-o-Taranaki. “It’s fantastic for all involved to get to this position we’re at now. We’ve gone from kiwi being rare to becoming abundant on Taranaki Maunga.

“Along with self-sustaining populations of kiwi from previous years of translocations, we are adding 110 kiwi this year and we aim to increase numbers year on year, so it’s absolutely normal for kiwi to have repopulated the maunga.”

Taranaki Kōhanga Kiwi at Rotokare ranger Jess Fancy said kiwi have been released on Taranaki Maunga from Rotokare Scenic Reserve for the past four years and it was cool to see kiwi numbers expanding with kiwi also coming from Maungatautari.

She estimated about 30 volunteers and staff from the partnership had been hands on in the past week. “It’s been a lot of work with lots of people involved. We’ve been capturing kiwi and checking they are over 1.2kg as that’s considered a safe weight to fend of predators, if need be. If under that weight we microchip them and release them back into the reserve.”

Jess added with growing numbers of kiwi in the national park and some moving beyond park boundaries, trapping in adjacent areas and getting dogs trained in kiwi aversion was important to protect kiwi. Kiwi raised at Rotokare are also released to sites on private land that have been extensively trapped.

DOC Taranaki Operations Manager Gareth Hopkins said the growth of kiwi on the maunga was another great reflection of the Partnership DOC has with Taranaki Mounga Project. “A huge amount of hard work has gone in to making the maunga a safe predator-free environment for these birds and this translocation programme is a real success everyone involved can be proud of,” he said.

Check out media coverage of the recent kiwi release at Kaitake:

Building relationships

Friday, December 8th, 2023

Relationships are key to providing the right environment for relocating larger numbers of kiwi from Maungatautari Sanctuary to Taranaki Maunga. Our recent wānanga with Ngāti Koroki Kahukura and Maungatautari whānau was about connecting and building strong relationships across iwi, hapū and taiao groups.

Apprentices Graduate

Thursday, November 16th, 2023

Maia, Mawene and Mereana

From helping out to now organising things, Mereana Hanrahan feels she’s come a long way in her apprentice journey.

“My knowledge has grown in so many ways – from operating a GPS, reading the land and identifying trees and manu. At the moment I’m organising our crew for monitoring toutouwai, and when I first started out I was a helper with that project, so it feels like I’ve come full circle,” she says.

Mereana along with Mawene Bidois, Jarvis Edwards and Maia Gibbs recently graduated from their two-year Ranger Apprentice programme, funded by Jobs for Nature and PredatorFree NZ. They work for Taranaki Mounga Project and Maia for Taranaki Kiwi Trust.

Taranaki Mounga Project Operations Manager Ngahina Capper says it’s a great achievement seeing them complete the requirements of the apprenticeship, including the study component at Te Pūkenga/Witt. “Creating opportunities is central to the Project and the apprenticeship is part of that. They have bright futures ahead, and we see them all as pivotal in terms of our succession modelling.”

Mereana says she’s gained a more realistic outlook of the mahi involved now, compared to when she started. “I still love it, even though I know it’s hard work. It’s treasuring the skills that we’ve gained and being capable of so much in the taiao space, and there is still lots to learn.”

Mawene agreed the highlight has been the relationships they’ve formed, meeting people from other organisations.

Mawene says their relationship skills have developed through connecting with other groups, including iwi, restoration groups at Maungatautari Sanctuary and Zoolandia Wildlife Sanctuary, as well as with kaumatua. “I consider them all my whanāu, we’re all doing the same mahi though in different locations.”

Mawene adds, “I’ve come out way better than when I first started this. Just being out in the field and in my conscious being, I’m way more in touch with the whenua. For example, I didn’t use to hear the birds but now I do and I can pick out individual species.”

Taranaki Kiwi Trust manager Celine Filbee says she is thrilled with the programme. “Maia came to us as a novice but she had absolutely the right attitude. She is now a thoughtful, efficient and diligent trapper with a host of other skills in her bow, including a kiwi handling accreditation.”

The real win was the friendships and partnerships made through the programme, consolidating what was already a strong relationship with Taranaki Mounga Project.

Jessi Morgan, from PredatorFree NZ, said Taranaki responded in a big way when the call went out for predator free apprentices more than two years ago. “At one point we had 8 apprentices based around Taranaki.

“Before the Predator Free Apprentice programme, there wasn’t a clear way into a career in predator control and conservation. But, helping and nurturing young people to get their hands dirty on their own whenua, with real-life experience and on-the-job training to protect vulnerable native species, has been a big hit.

“We have made predator control a viable and attractive career path for young people – otherwise, we will have nobody to deliver the mahi for a predator free Aotearoa by 2050.”

About 65 apprentices will graduate by mid-next year through the Jobs for Nature-funded programme.


Kiwi adventures beyond Kaitake

Wednesday, November 1st, 2023

Tāne Manukonga with Katie

A feisty kiwi has been returned to Kaitake Ranges after an adventure across paddocks and past houses.

Taranaki Kiwi Trust staff and volunteers have been monitoring the kiwi, along with other kiwi who were relocated to Taranaki Maunga in April this year as part of Taranaki Mounga Project’s kiwi programme.

Six months after arriving on the Kaitake, Katie the kiwi (named after a nearby landowner) left the protected park area of Te Papakura o Taranaki and over several days ventured close to houses on Kaitake Road and Surrey Hill Road, near Ōākura.

Tāne Manukonga, kaiwhakahaere of environmental educational group Te Ara Taiao, helped find Katie with Taranaki Kiwi Trust ranger Toby Shanley and took her back to Kaitake.

Tāne said she was fiesty and mad when they picked her up. “I’ve never seen a kiwi behave in this way wanting to bust out of her box. We found her 50 metres from a dog and a house in her own slice of heaven, a little piece of secluded bush, but it wasn’t safe for her to stay there.”

Tāne said he’d learnt so much about kiwi behaviour and the wider project through relocating Katie and would be sharing it with students, including those at Ōākura School who are involved in monitoring kiwi.

Taranaki Kiwi Trust ranger Toby Shanley said it would be fantastic in the future to have kiwi living beyond the national park and not need to move them, but there was still significant work required for their protection.

“It’s a good reminder for landowners to continue trapping to reduce predators, such as stoats, and also to have your dogs go through kiwi aversion training. Eventually we’d love to see the kiwi population grow beyond park boundaries.”

Toby estimated Katie the kiwi travelled about 5.5 kilometres from her home on Kaitake.

As part of the DOC permit conditions, kiwi need to be kept as safe as possible. That means having them in protected areas with extensive trapping networks and relocating them back if they move.

Vegetation in best condition

Tuesday, September 12th, 2023

Taranaki Maunga has native vegetation in the best condition in the country, according to a renowned ecologist.

Professor Bruce Clarkson, from the University of Waikato, said Te Papakura o Taranaki had the highest quality of vegetation compared with national parks across Aotearoa, excluding fenced sanctuaries, and covering a substantial area of 33,500 hectares.

“We have this unique situation that we are the only park in the whole country that doesn’t have goats and deer.”

Goats were eliminated from Te Papakura o Taranaki last year due to an intensive and targeted goat hunting strategy over 5 years. Before that they roamed the park in significant numbers for many decades. 

“The vegetation condition has never been better. Seedlings and saplings are flourishing in places that were previously bare (due to grazing from goats), and slip faces that had been slow to heal are now recovering quickly.”

Bruce, who was raised on a farm near Midhirst and has studied the ecology of Taranaki Maunga for decades, said he’d observed the flourishing ngahere when he hiked to Kaitake summit earlier this year. However, there was still much to be done to help the upper canopy of the bush, which is being heavily impacted by possums in some areas.

Bruce was in Taranaki recently supporting Taranaki Mounga Project and the Department of Conservation on developing a data strategy for the mountain. That meant looking at the best ways to measure the health and well-being of the mountain, which was practical for staff to capture information and track over time. For example, standard methods included remeasuring  20 metre by 20 metre plots every 5-7 years.

Taranaki Maunga Signing

Tuesday, September 12th, 2023

The signing of Te Ruruku Pūtakeronga, the collective deed of redress for Taranaki Maunga, was a momentous occasion on Friday, September 1, 2023.

The agreement between the Crown and iwi of Taranaki includes a Crown apology, the recognition of Taranaki Maunga as a legal person, Māori names restored and co-governed management of the national park, Te Papakura o Taranaki.

Here’s the Collective Redress Summary:

Taranaki Maunga | New Zealand Government (

To read the news about it:

Welcoming new volunteers

Tuesday, July 25th, 2023

New volunteers checking out maps of traplines on Taranaki Maunga

Taranaki Mounga Project is onboarding a new group of volunteers to help manage traplines on the southern side of Taranaki Maunga starting in October.

They will become part of a large network of helpers including 40 volunteers working on the northern side of the mountain and 60 volunteers working on Kaitake with the Kaitake Conservation Trust.

All those interested in helping will be inducted and supported, it was explained at a meet and greet hui in Stratford recently.

Te Papa Atawhai DOC Community ranger Gabriel Field said volunteers would learn how to set, bait and check traps and stay safe in the outdoors.

“Whether you have a few hours to give or half a day or more. We want you to feel comfortable and that you are contributing the way you want to contribute.”

Gabriel said volunteers could be coordinated via a roster, which would be worked out according to confidence in the bush, preference for an area and how much time people could offer to checking traps.

Pouatawhai/Lead Ranger Tāne Houston talked about the traps used – mostly DOC 200s to target stoats and rats, and Trap NZ, the app used for locating traps on GPS and recording data.

Tāne said there was no magic solution to trapping and encouraged those getting involved to get creative making the traps attractive to the predators. Rabbit meat was used as bait and some tricks included sprinkling flour and custard powder nearby. “We try and make our traps sing, so they are like a party zone for the predators,” he said.

The Kaitake Conservation Trust has been leading community restoration efforts with about 60 volunteers managing 18 trap-lines (more than 700 traps) and monitoring kiwi. Their work has enabled 30 kiwi to be rehomed in the area.

Kaitake Conservation Trust chair Peter Morgan said the trust grew out of a group of Ōākura residents wanting to keep a local DOC track open. That evolved into trapping and working closely with Taranaki Mounga Project and DOC.

He encouraged people to get involved. “We have about 4-5 families looking after each trapline and they check it every 3-4 months. Some people come and go. Some track lines are hard and others we have the same people doing the same track line for years.”


First Apprentice Ranger Graduates

Friday, April 21st, 2023

Tipunakore Rangiwai (centre) celebrating his achievement with Ngahina Capper and Sean Zieltjes

The first apprentice ranger to graduate with Taranaki Mounga Project has blazed the trail for others to follow.

Tipunakore Rangiwai recently celebrated completing the two-year kaiwhakamōkihi/trainee ranger programme and is now part of the Te Kāhui o Taranaki Toa Taiao team working as a ranger to protect pā and other special places within the takiwā of Taranaki Iwi.

Tipunakore says it feels amazing to have completed the apprenticeship and he has enjoyed gaining experience with like-minded people in the same environment.

“It was a good apprenticeship with everything packed into it; lots of seminars, meeting people and gaining knowledge. I’d recommend it to anyone and everyone. It feels like it’s where I’m meant to be –working with the whenua.”

He joined Taranaki Mounga Project four years ago when he was 16 and helped inform the development of the apprentice programme, of which 4 others are also part of and will be graduating later this year.

Taranaki Mounga Project co-director Sean Zieltjes said Tipunakore had brought so much to the team, especially his courage and grit.

“We wouldn’t have gone after the apprentice programme the way we have without Tipunakore.  A lot of the thinking behind it has been informed by him and his ideas. It’s been mutually reciprocal for us.

“Jessi and the team at Predator Free NZ Trust have backed his ideas and supported us to create and deliver 5 apprentice roles overall.”

Tipunakore’s role was part-funded through Predator Free NZ Trust as part of a nationwide programme to train more animal pest control specialists to support the predator-free vision.

The programme involved on-the-job training as well as study through the Te Kura Matatini –  Western Institute of Technology (WITT) and training provider Feats Pae Tawhiti.