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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
More kiwi were released onto Kaitake on April 5, joining a growing population.
A ceremony at Ōākura School yesterday signalled the start of kiwi release season with students from a range of coastal schools getting the chance to see five kiwi up close before they were released into bush on Kaitake.
About 20 kiwi will be released on Taranaki Maunga and Kaitake area over the next few months. It’s the fourth year that kiwi bred in the Taranaki Kohanga Kiwi at Rotokare, a partnership between the Taranaki Kiwi Trust and the Rotokare Scenic Reserve Trust, near Eltham, will be moved to new homes within Te Papakura o Taranaki (Egmont National Park).
Taranaki Kiwi Trust Ranger Toby Shanley said most of the 20 kiwi released in the last two years had paired up and had chicks. He estimated the kiwi population on Kaitake was now at least 30-40. “We know from our monitoring they are having chicks, although we don’t have exact numbers as the next generation are not electronically tagged.”
Department of Conservation Taranaki Operations Manager Gareth Hopkins says the release is a prime example of the partnership with the community working well. “Throughout the community everyone has rallied together to control pests. It’s because of all that hard work from rangers and volunteers that we’re able to keep releasing kiwi and enjoy seeing other native species coming back.”
Taranaki Mounga Project co-director Sera Gibson said almost all possums on Kaitake were gone due to trapping efforts, thanks to staff across organisations and a large number of dedicated volunteers. “We’re continuing to keep at it to suppress predators and now focusing on stoats and rats, along with extending our trapping network right around the maunga.”
The ceremony was a good celebration for the multiple groups involved including Ngā Mahanga a Tāiri hapū, Department of Conservation, the Kaitake Ranges Conservation Trust, Te Ara Taiao, schools, Rotokare Scenic Reserve Trust and the Taranaki Kiwi Trust.
Tāne Manu, from Te Ara Taiao – an environmental educational programme working with schools, hapū and conservation groups, said the ceremony was for all the young people there, many of whom had been involved with trapping and monitoring birds. “These taonga are for our children and generations to come,” he said.
With increasing numbers of kiwi it was crucial that dogs, which are illegal in Te Papa Kura o Taranaki, are kept away. Cameras are still capturing people walking their dogs on Kaitake.
A fantastic and hugely significant milestone was achieved on Friday with the signing at Aotearoa Marae of Te Ruruku Pūtakerongo – The Taranaki Maunga Collective Redress Deed – with ngā iwi o Taranaki and the Crown.
Te Ruruku Pūtakerongo recognises Taranaki Maunga, the national park Te Papa Kura o Taranaki and nearby peaks as ancestral mountains, which will jointly become a legal person, Te Kāhui Tupua. The deal involves cultural redress and restoring traditional ingoa Māori to many areas.
The agreement includes setting up a formal entity with iwi and crown appointees, Te Tōpuni Kōkōrangi, as the face and voice of Te Kāhui Tupua. Next, the settlement goes out to ngā iwi o Taranaki for their agreement.
We are grateful to the maunga negotiation team, which includes Taranaki Mounga Project board members Jamie Tuuta and Hemi Sundgren, for their commitment to reaching this milestone for those campaigners who have since passed, and for all of us.
Read more about the settlement in the Taranaki Daily News story here.
We are delighted to announce Ngahina Capper to the role of Operations Manager for Taranaki Mounga Project, starting in late April.
Ngahina is looking forward to being part of the project in the newly-created role, serving our tūpuna Mounga, and helping enhance the health and well-being of Te Papakura o Taranaki.
“I am excited about the opportunity of collaboration and partnership, the opportunity to work with iwi, hapū, key stakeholders and the community to collaborate on what the future might look like on our tūpuna Mounga for our tamariki and mokopuna,” he said.
For the past four years Ngahina has worked as Kaitiaki Whenua with Te Kāhui o Taranaki – a role that was initiated through a partnership with DOC, helping grow and develop its taiao team.
Prior to that he had nearly 20 years working in the mining and petrochemical industry across Australasia where he held a variety of leadership positions, before completing a stint as operations manager for Taranaki Rugby League.
Ngahina enjoys spending time with his whānau, including his seven children and one mokopuna, and has a new-found passion for helping establish his own whānau papakāinga. He also spends his spare time at rugby league and working with young people to help them reach their potential.
He has whakapapa to Te Ātiawa, Taranaki, Ngāti Ruanui, Ngā Ruahine, Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Maru, Ngāti Maniapoto.
The Operations Manager role enables Co-Project Managers Sera Gibson and Sean Zieltjes to focus on the broader work programme of the project.
Sean says he is looking forward to having Ngahina on board. “We were really lucky with the high calibre of applicants we received and it puts us in a fantastic position for the future of Taranaki Mounga Project.”