• Nick Smith

This year's Conservation Week will show what can be achieved when the whole community makes a commitment to conservation, Minister of Conservation Nick Smith said today. New Zealand's 28th Conservation Week will be launched on August 4 with a native tree planting at a historic pa site on the Whanganui River. School children will plant hundreds of native trees at Waitaha Pa, as part of McDonald's national tree planting programme.

"We're launching Conservation Week at Waitaha Pa, where, through the efforts of many different groups, we've been able to take the first step towards restoration."

Waitaha Pa, which has been farmland for generations, will be the subject of a five-year restoration programme involving the Department of Conservation, local schools and McDonalds, as well as the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, Kaitoke Prison nursery, iwi and the Whanganui Regional Museum.

School children will plant more than 15,000 native trees at 17 sites throughout New Zealand as part of McDonald's tree planting programme run in conjuction with the Department of Conservation and the local council. On August 5, Kuirau Park in Rotorua will benefit from the greenfingers of 200 students who will plant 2,000 natives, including rimu, kahikatea and fivefingers.

"The end of Conservation Week will be celebrated with the release of endangered kokako onto a predator-free island. This brings into perspective what it is we want to achieve for New Zealand in terms of conservation - protecting what's special about this country's flora and fauna."

Nick Smith said the release of the four birds onto Tiritiri Matangi Island in the Hauraki Gulf was a tribute to the work of thousands of volunteers who had planted more than 200,000 native trees on the island.

"Thanks to the efforts of the community, iwi, Friends of Tiritiri Matangi and the sponsors of the Kokako Recovery Programme, State Insurance, this island is a sanctuary for some of New Zealand's threatened natives like kokako, little spotted kiwi and takahe."

The kokako, from Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre and Mapara Wildlife Management Reserve, will be transferred to the island on August 10, in a special ceremony involving all those who have supported the programme.

"The theme for Conservation Week is 'Native Bush, New Zealand's Own - te Ngahere, he Taonga', and the work being done at Waitaha Pa and with kokako on Tiritiri Matangi shows it is possible to make significant conservation gains with the support of the community. Community involvement in saving native bush and endangered species is essential if we are to achieve as much as we can for the present and the future."