Kaiwhakauka whio release. From left: Herewini Rata-McLeod, Labron Vaka-McLeod, Te Kotahitanga Te Tawhero, Texas Vaka-McLeod

Image: Susan Nicholson | ©


Horizons joined DOC, Genesis, iwi, community members and local schools for the release of whio into areas of Whanganui National Park.

Date:  01 April 2019

Kia Whārite is a collaborative biodiversity project spanning over 180,000 hectares and including a mixture of private land and parts of the Whanganui National Park.

This makes it one of the largest restoration projects of its kind in New Zealand and it is directly contributing to the survival of native species.

Horizons Regional Council biosecurity animals’ coordinator Eric Dodd says since 2008, Horizons, the Department of Conservation, Whanganui iwi and private landowners have been instrumental in pest control of possums, goats, stoats and other predators that have threatened the health of the native birdlife, the forest and put the long-term future of its inhabitants in jeopardy.

The project also aims to improve land, water and biodiversity health, while enhancing community and economic wellbeing.

Earlier this month, Horizons joined DOC, Genesis, iwi, community members and local schools for the release of whio in the Ruatiti Domain. A release was also held at Whakahoro on the Kaiwhakauka Stream in late January in total adding 24 ducks to the whio population in the project area. 

Genesis is in partnership with DOC in the Whio Forever Programme which is working around New Zealand to boost whio populations and provide a brighter future for the whio duck.

Twelve whio released on the Kaiwhakauka Stream

Peter Russel organising the whio release at Kaiwhakauka Stream
Image: Susan Nicholson ©

Late January this year over 40 people attended the release of 12 whio to boost the numbers on the Kaiwhakauka Stream.

This day was well supported by the local community, joining owner Dan Steel at Whakahoro and his staff. Dan is a passionate advocate for pest control and has a love for the environment. 

Iwi leaders Paora “Baldie” Haitana and Aiden Gilbert also lent their support.

"As kaitiaki of our ancestral lands we want our tamariki to know they have a responsibility to protect at risk native species and landscapes critical to tribal identity," says Aiden Gilbert.

Paora Haitana felt blessed to have his mokopuna attend and release saying that their joy and excitement warmed his heart.

Twelve whio released on the Manganui river

Whio release at Manganui o Te Ao river with Aiden Gilbert Karakia
Image: Susan Nicholson ©

The whio release earlier this month on the Manganui o Te Ao river was also well attended including DOC staff, Horizons councillor Bruce Rollinson, Horizons staff and tamariki from Orautoha Kura, Raetihi and Ohakune schools. 

A special acknowledgment was extended to Rufus Bristol, known to the tamariki as "Koro Rufus”, for his wealth of knowledge and expertise with whio. This event was well attended by the community. A special mihi to iwi members Rangi Bristol and Aiden Gilbert for their tautoko, 

Following a sausage sizzle lunch, an education session was held at Orautoha kura. Stalwarts Koro Rufus, Whio Recovery Group captive coordinator Peter Russell and DOC Biodiversity Ranger Laurance “Lorrie” Williamson joined forces to support and pass on their knowledge and expertise to the tamariki; all of whom thoroughly enjoyed their day. 

DOC operations manager Tahinganui Hina says with a national population of fewer than 3000, this whio security site is one of eight locations identified across the country as being essential for whio recovery.  

DOC senior biodiversity ranger Sara Treadgold said the support of Genesis has allowed DOC to sustain a number of whio breeding sites, boost pest control efforts and enhance productivity and survival of these rare native ducks.

"The ultimate goal of this security site is to achieve protection for 50 breeding pairs," Sara says.

DOC biodiversity ranger and whio lead Laurance “Lorrie” Williamson said the most recent bird count reported 28 pairs, 18 singles and 16 fledglings in the area, so the 12 released will hopefully increase this population and result on more breeding pairs.  

"We will undertake another count in the winter months to see how the birds are doing," he says.

Whio are adapted to live on fast-flowing rivers so finding them means you have also found clean, fast-flowing water with a good supply of insects. This makes whio important indicators of ecosystem health, as they only exist where there is high quality, clean and healthy waterways.

Horizons councillor for Ruapehu Bruce Rollinson says the success of the programme is enhanced through working collaboratively with DOC, iwi, landowners and private forestry companies who let Horizons and DOC on to private land to complete pest control work.

"We’re really pleased to be associated with these groups. They all play a key role in the programme as we couldn’t do it on our own and we’re really grateful for their ongoing support," says Mr Rollinson. 

Pest control and whio education day – Orautoha School

On Friday 22 February 31 tamariki of Orautoha School were well engaged and enjoyed a pest control and whio education workshop with DOC Biodiversity Rangers Tai Edmonds and Laurance "Lorrie" Williamson who were supported by Senior Community Ranger Susan Nicholson and Community Ranger Jaycee Tipene-Thomas. 

Eight Traps and 10 tracking tunnels were loaned to the kura for their environmental programme. 

Whio and trapping education day
Image: Susan Nicholson ©


Susan Nicholson
DOC Senior Community Ranger
Email: sosborne@doc.govt.nz

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