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Published: 2017-08-11 19:52:00

A project to restore kokako to Mt Pirongia is making solid progress with 20 bird re-locations due this year having been carried out already, Waikato Regional Council has been told.

As of early this month, there were now 12 male and eight female kokako on the maunga, the project reports.

The finance committee, which approved a $110,000 contribution to the project’s overall costs from the natural heritage fund earlier this year, signed off a formal funding deed this week.

Committee chair Jane Hennebry said it was good to hear of the project’s successes: “The natural heritage fund is designed to help other organisations undertake just this sort of environmental initiative and it’s great to see the grant being successfully utilised as planned.”

The project is being carried out by the Pirongia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society which says it’s had excellent volunteer support on top of agency funding.

The society’s ultimate goal is to re-establish a 500-strong, self-sustaining, genetically diverse population of North Island kokako on Mt Pirongia by translocating birds into an existing 1000 hectare predator control zone on the mountain maintained by the society.

Transfer of a total of 40 birds is due to take place over three years in conjunction with the Department of Conservation’s kokako specialist group.

The council’s funding has been helping with the costs of kokako capture, post-release management and pest control. The birds are being sourced from Pureora forest and discussions are underway to also return Pirongia-lineage kokako currently on Tiritiri Matangi Island in the Hauraki Gulf.

Kokako – a once common species now officially at risk - were present on Mt Pirongia till the 1990s when they were removed in the hope they would breed more successfully elsewhere.

The committee’s been told that achieving the project’s goals will provide an opportunity for the regional community and the 35,000 visitors to Pirongia Forest Park each year to encounter kokako in their natural environment.