The voluntary ‘Motu Kiwi Team’ was formed in 2001. This is a group of dedicated volunteers who from July to March monitor the location of breeding kiwi pairs and any male kiwi incubating eggs. The Trust has its own kiwi dog and an experienced operator to locate new adult birds if required. Radio transmitters are attached and birds are released allowing the team to track their breeding progress.
‘Egg timer’ radio transmitters allow us to record how many days the male kiwi has been incubating for. A remote camera is installed near the nest burrow entrance after 75 days to record adult and chick activity. Chicks are then fitted with their own miniature radio transmitters once they become mobile.
After the chick has been radio tagged the work really begins for the kiwi team. They have a busy summer locating chicks, recording growth rates, location, the chick’s health and changing radio transmitters.
Half of the chicks are moved into the kiwi crèche each season and the remainder stay in the wild and are tracked within the Whinray forest.
During 2005 Dan and Jane Griffin set aside an area of 2 hectares of farmland on which to build the kiwi chick crèche. The area has been formally protected by a QEII National Trust covenant.
An ‘Xcluder’ fence protects the area which is an essential tool for the protection of young kiwi from stoat predation. The enclosure is near the reserve and is composed of regenerating podocarp and broadleaf forest species with a mix of pasture and successional broadleaf-manuka forest. The pasture contains large populations of crickets and other insects which kiwi chicks love! The creche is also now home to gecko, skinks, many invertebrates and a large weta population. Motu School children have assisted by building weta hotels and transferring invertebrates into the enclosure.
Mice, rats, hares and rabbits were completely eradicated in 2006 and over 6000 native trees have been planted within the enclosure to create a habitat for the kiwi. Once the kiwi chicks hit the 1000 gram weight, they are able to defend themselves against stoats and they are released into the Whinray Scenic Reserve.
Kiwi numbers are increasing however it is hard to contain the birds once they are released. Once they get to 18 months of age many venture off into the Raukumara Ranges where they cannot then be monitored by trust volunteers. Whinray Reserve acts as a ‘Kohanga Kiwi’ feeding young birds into the Raukumara, Motu and Urutawa Conservation Areas.
In 1999 DoC started to trap stoats and possums as part of the North Island weka study project. Previous research has shown that stoats kill up to 95% of all kiwi chicks. The trapping of over 800 stoats since 1999 has been the key to kiwi survival at Whinray.
The Trust currently relies heavily on the work of volunteers to control pests, monitor the kiwi, fund raise, develop education activities, manage the chick crèche, design education resources and speak to community and school groups. Without the dedication of the small Motu Community and its trust members, the East Coast kiwi population would still be in decline.
A series of information panels have been positioned at the Motu River Swing Bridge informing the public of The Whinray Ecological Charitable Trust and its projects. These panels are designed to be informative and interesting with a panel dedicated to kiwi, weka, predators of New Zealand wildlife and Whinray Scenic Reserve.
A set of mammal pests have been permanently preserved as part of our conservation education programme. These include a cat, possum, ferret, stoat, weasel, rat, mouse and hedgehog. These preserved pests are used to educate students about the harm introduced predators cause to the environment.
The Trust also has a preserved kiwi and kiwi eggs to accompany the display. This is often the first opportunity that students and teachers have to see a kiwi and its huge eggs up close.
A goal of the Trust is to make these unique and iconic birds available for all New Zealanders to see, rather than just a privileged few. A preserved one is a good start and a great way to put the conservation work of the Trust into perspective.
Also included in the display is a stoat trap, radio tracking equipment and a kiwi transmitter so students can better understand how kiwi monitoring is carried out.
The purchase of the preserved pests was funded by the Eastern and Central Community Trust and the Tairawhiti Environment Centre.
The Trust has produced a Whinray booklet which can accompany people as they walk along the track. The booklet provides excellent information about the reserve and points of interest relating to the numbered track markers.
Some of the most common plants encountered along the track are identified and often accompanied with an interesting ecological or social fact; for example, Lancewoods have grown their characteristic long narrow rigid leaves as a defence against moa browse. Ripe berries from the Peppertree can be used as peppercorns and there are several restaurants in NZ that use them in a range of dishes.
Other points of interest focus on the social history of the track which was originally part of the walking trail that connected Gisborne to Opotiki enabling access for Maori and Pakeha travellers during the 1880s. It was later upgraded to an 8 foot wide dray track. At one point along the track a large rimu has had a notch cut out of its base to smooth the passage for a horse and cart. The axe marks can still be seen today.
The booklet can be obtained from several outlets in Gisborne including the Department of Conservation, Tairawhiti Environment Centre and the Information Centre. Motu School also has copies. They cost 50c and all proceeds go directly back into the Trust’s work.
Whinray History Book
Whinray Scenic Reserve, Motu: A brief history
Researched and written by Elizabeth Pishief and published by the Trust in 2006 this 64 page book outlines the history of the reserve.
The story starts in the 1880s when the track was part of the link between Gisborne and Opotiki. It tells the story of how the track was used and upgraded to a dray track, how it fell into disuse when the Old Motu Rd was developed and looks into its current use as a recreational facility.
Pishief informatively places the reserve in context with its surroundings over time. The logging and farming history of the Motu valley is examined.
More specifically to the reserve she looks into the origin of reserves, the beginning of conservation, James Whinray, illegal grazing in the reserve, wild animal control, the current use of the reserve and the work that the Whinray ECo Trust is currently carrying out in the reserve.
This book is available from the Trust, Tairawhiti Environment Centre and the Tairawhiti Museum at a cost of $15. All proceeds go directly back into the Trust’s work.
Major projects to date
2006 - Predator proof kiwi chick enclosure
2013 - Completed planting 6000 trees