Kiwis prefer pine to pohutukawa

The following is reprinted from the Whakatane Beacon as written by Environment reporter Karla Akuhata.

They might be a New Zealand icon but kiwis fail to return the loyalty - they prefer pine plantations to the native forest they inhabit in children's story books.

Department of Conservation ranger Bridget Palmer said kiwi like to nest in plantation forests, including pine and eucalyptus, because of the soil biodiversity in them.

She said the plantation forests usually allowed more light to filter through than native forest canopy.

"Ultimately we think of a native forest as having the best this and the best that but pines have a richness of biodiversity because the layer of biomass is not as deep. It is rich with invertebrates.

"They also usually have possum control, or they have some form of pest control. They are a good place to be."

Playing host to kiwi populations could complicate matters for plantation forest owners and harvesters but Ms Palmer said most companies in the Eastern Bay had been good to work with because they realised the importance of protecting the endangered native species.

She said the brown kiwi was classified by DoC as in `serious decline' and numbers were reducing at an alarming rate - 5 per cent per year - which meant their population halved approximately every decade.

Over the past five years, as commercial forests were prepared for harvest, more and more forest owners and managers had put in place measures to protect kiwi living in them.

Ms Palmer said forestry management guidelines were created to set out the behaviour expected of forestry companies when operating in known kiwi areas, such as in the Waiotahi Valley or on the Whakatane ridgeline.

"Our harvesters are awesome. If they find any signs of kiwi they usually call the Whakatane Kiwi Trust or us. They will engage the trust to undertake a survey.

"To begin with it was quite intimidating because crews would just sit in their trucks, but they are awesome now. We go in at their smoke breaks and take our stuff and we also tell them it is weka too."

KiwiPF Olsen environment manager Kit Richards said most of the large forestry companies understood the need to protect native species.

"We are aware that our native birds are facing decimation and a lot of the threatened species make use of pine forests and other plantations."

Mr Richards said harvest companies followed a set of protocols and crews were becoming used to taking their time in areas where kiwi were present.

"Our normal practice is to try and establish whether kiwis were present ahead of time by getting surveys done and working out what the next steps are. If there are no kiwis then it is all good. If there are birds then we need to think in terms of nesting cycles and what needs to be done."

Mr Richards said the company's environmental approach also involved preservation of falcons, frogs, long-tail cuckoos, and native fish.