Kiwi return to Tongariro Forest


Conservation Minister Willow-Jean Prime has welcomed the historic return of nine Western brown kiwi to sanctuary in the Tongariro Forest, with another 60 birds set to join them in the coming weeks.

“Eighteen years ago, rangatira had the vision to place a group of vulnerable Tongariro kiwi under the care of Ngāti Korokī Kahukura and safeguard them at Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari in the Waikato,” Willow-Jean Prime said.

“Today we were privileged to witness this kaitiakitanga come full-circle as the kiwi returned home. 

“The Government is proud to be supporting this and other efforts to increase and take care of our iconic kiwi population.”

After a pōwhiri welcoming the kiwi back home, members of Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro and Ngāti Korokī Kahukura, alongside Minister Prime, Department of Conservation staff and members of the Save the Kiwi group released the first birds into the 20,000-hectare nature reserve.

“I would like to acknowledge the work of Ngāti Hikairo ki Tongariro and Ngāti Korokī Kahukura in their longstanding efforts to grow the brown kiwi population,” Willow- Jean Prime said.

“An incredible reciprocity between these two hapū has made this release possible.

“I would also like to thank Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari and Save the Kiwi for nurturing this kiwi population to the point where they can be gifted back to the places they came from.”

The kiwi population in Tongariro Forest Kiwi Sanctuary is protected through an extensive predator control programme including trapping and three-yearly toxin operations, managed by the Department of Conservation.

“We are excited to see this become another success story in the vast predator-free efforts happening across the motu,” Willow-Jean Prime said.

This series of releases to Tongariro will be the first of what is expected to become several large-scale releases from Maungatautari, thanks to Save the Kiwi’s Kōhanga Kiwi repopulation strategy, the National Kiwi Hatchery, Wairakei Golf and Sanctuary, Project Tongariro, Owhango Alive, the Department of Conservation, and volunteers.


In 2005, Ngāti Hikairo gifted guardianship of four kiwi chicks to Ngāti Korokī Kahukura. These became the first resident kiwi of Maungatautari.

In the following 18 years, over 400 more kiwi chicks were gifted from other iwi and hapū in the western North Island to join the original birds at Maungatautari. Thanks to the work of the Sanctuary, mana whenua, and many volunteers, today there are over 2,000 kiwi resident at Maungatautari.

Brown kiwi live in forests in the Tongariro National Park and the adjacent Tongariro Forest Conservation Area, which is the location of a kiwi sanctuary with its population monitored by Department of Conservation rangers.

Four geographically and genetically distinct forms of brown kiwi have been identified:

  • Northland brown kiwi
  • Coromandel brown kiwi
  • Western brown kiwi
  • Eastern brown kiwi.

Learn more: Brown kiwi: Kiwi (