Kiwi survival a pipe dream in Craigeburn

Rats, cats and stoats are all formidable foes lowering the odds for kiwi survival in the South Island. But thanks to help from a small army of volunteers and a Canterbury based water solutions company, those odds have just got markedly better.

After 35 years of saving and breeding kiwis largely through the Willowbank Wildlife Centre in Christchurch, the New Zealand Conservation Trust is expanding its work to a new site in Craigeburn.

The trust established a “kiwi crèche” at Willowbank to help hatched kiwis get up to size and develop in a protected ‘wild’ type environment, before being released into the wild proper.

The odds for kiwi in the wild are not good. Trust chairman Richard Moore said 95% of kiwis never make it to breeding age in the wild, and half the eggs laid in the wild won’t even make it to hatching, thanks to predation by stoats, rats and wild cats.

Moore said the time had come to expand facilities, and it has chosen a 4ha site in the Craigeburn Forest Park, replicating the breeding centre and crèche at Willowbank.

“This facility will mirror Willowbank, so in case of a disease outbreak and we have to shut that facility down to deal with it, and Craigeburn is an ideal place with some buildings already there, and an environment that is suitable,” Moore said.

But the Craigeburn region is highly susceptible to fire risk over late spring through to autumn, and a priority has been to get sufficient water supply on hand in case of a fire in the bush area. This had proven a challenge, and the nearest reliable summer water source was the Environment Education Centre, 100m from the buildings.

The Trust was fortunate to have Ken Hagerty, Marley NZ’s South Island manager on its board as an advisory trustee, and he quickly saw a solution to the problem of water supply.

“I could see our Marley Oasis branded Polyethylene pipe was the solution we needed to pipe water to where it needed to be. The benefit for us at Marley was that we got to trial our newest line of water pipe in a pretty demanding environment,” he said.

With temperatures dropping to -10C in winter, and as high at 35C in summer, the extreme range provides an ideal testing ground for the company’s pipe product.

Marley donated the 100m of Marley Oasis pipe to connect the reservoir source to the facilities’ fire-fighting hoses.

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