Waikato-based Pirongia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society has received a New Zealand Biosecurity Award for their efforts in restoring native birds to Mt Pirongia.
Above: Society committee members Clare St Pierre, Selwyn June and Dianne June at the Biosecurity Awards ceremony.
Distant childhood memories surrounding the call of the kōkako in their neighbourhood led to Pirongia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society’s vision to see our elusive native bird re-introduced to Mt Pirongia - in a 1000 hectare, predator controlled area of the mountain.
“People who lived near Mt Pirongia remembered hearing the song of the kōkako growing up, but it had died out in the 1980s and 1990s due to logging and introduced predators taking their toll. The desire to hear kōkako again on our maunga was the inspiration for the formation of the Society in 2002,” Clare St Pierre, the Society’s Chairwomen said.
The recent delight in being able to spot kōkako in their backyard makes their initial meeting in 2002 and their combined journey of almost 5,000 volunteer hours’ worth every minute.
Their efforts, which led to the classification of kōkako improving from 'threatened' to 'at risk' have earned them this year’s New Zealand Biosecurity Department of Conservation Community Award.
This award recognises the Society’s commitment to biosecurity in New Zealand, their collaboration within their community, and leadership and support in assisting in the protection of New Zealand’s natural environment.
“The Biosecurity Community Award is a chance to highlight the fantastic work that is being done in an area that has strong links to our identity as New Zealanders, and to encourage the many people and organisations who might otherwise not receive any kind of public accolade or acknowledgement.
“Biosecurity is undeniably at the top of the list for New Zealand as a nation to be able to safeguard the natural environment we have right now, and to ensure we remain masters of our destiny for the natural environment we want in the future,” said Clare.
The Society was presented with their award at the New Zealand Biosecurity Award’s dinner in Auckland on 12 November 2018 – amongst a record number of high calibre entries across eight award categories. While surprised to have received an award that’s associated with biosecurity efforts, they are understandably chuffed.
“We’re just absolutely humbled. Winning a national award is a phenomenal boost for volunteer groups. This award is a massive tribute to the countless people who have helped us over the years with pest control, logistics, monitoring, health and safety, fieldwork, consulting, fundraising and reporting, said Clare.
While a return of kōkako is one of the key focuses for the Society, other native bird species are now also flourishing on Mt Pirongia, especially riflemen, tomtits, tui, bellbirds, whitehead, and kereru. The society’s efforts continue to reap biodiversity benefits for New Zealand.
To find out more about the Awards, visit mpi.govt.nz/biosecurityawards.