Pirongia's Te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society so desperately wants its own maunga to be a kōkako stronghold, its members have become deeply involved in protecting both the land and species where its future songbirds presently live.
The last-known kōkako on Pirongia disappeared in the 1990s and the society has worked tirelessly in recent years making a large area pest free into which the species can be translocated. More than 20 kōkako from Okahukura Block in Pureora Forest Park have been translocated to Pirongia during 2017.
DOC's King Country Operations Manager Natasha Hayward said the Pirongia society's contribution to extensive pest control work at Okahukura demonstrates a commitment to the kōkako species that may be unprecedented.
"It is standard for conservation groups to work very hard in preparing their own 'backyard' to receive a translocated species but society members have been establishing a bait station network over a 1000-hectare block at Okahukura which contains a key cluster of northern and south-eastern subpopulations. This is most important in maintaining a genetically healthy and robust kōkako population."
Natasha Hayward said the Pirongia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society is also fully committed to maintaining its intensive predator control regime on a 1000-hectare block of Pirongia Forest Park and that area may need to be extended if kōkako pairs start expanding beyond the present managed grid.
"The society's hopes are to establish a viable kōkako population of at least 40 birds on Pirongia within the next three years. As well as Okahukura, some birds may come from the population on Tiritiri Matangi Island in the Hauraki Gulf."
Natasha Hayward said DOC will be contributing to management of both the Okahukura ($50,000) and Pirongia ($40,000) parts of the society-led project over the next three years. The society itself has more than 100 members contributing several thousand hours of voluntary work toward achieving their dream of bringing the kōkako back to Pirongia mountain after an absence of some 25 years.