Since the last kōkako was removed from North Taranaki in 1999 and taken to the breeding programme, our goal has been to prepare Parininihi so it could once again provide a safe and welcoming home to enable the return of kōkako to our forests. Our concern is that Options 2 and 3 presented by NZTA jeopardise this goal.
Approval of the translocation (collection and relocation) of the kōkako to Parininihi is given by the Department of Conservation, who in turn consider the expert recommendations of the Kōkako Specialist Group (KSG). The KSG assess every proposed site application to translocate kōkako from existing populations to new areas and understand what is required to support a successful translocation.
Option 1, the improvement of the existing road, does not enter the Parininihi conservation area and should not affect the decision of the KSG or the Department of Conservation to approve the translocation of the kōkako to Parininihi. This is our preferred option as it has minimal impact on the habitat needed to successfully establish the kōkako population.
We also support any new options to the South or East of the current road as these could potentially mean the pest control management area could be expanded.
Option 3, North West of the existing road, splits off a large part of the Parininihi conservation area and would likely stop the return of the kōkako being recommended by the KSG or approved by the Department of Conservation. Experts advise the kokako need approximately 2000 hectares of suitable habitat to enable a self-sustaining population to develop. The Parininihi conservation area is currently 1300 Ha with a plan to expand the management area to 2000 Ha. Although the total area of Parininihi would not be largely reduced by Option 3, kokako travel by gliding (rather than flying) from a high point to a lower point and prefer a continuous bush habitat as they do not easily pass over large open areas such as roads. Option 3 would likely restrict the kōkako to a much reduced portion of Parininihi to the west of the new road. The reduction in area along with the dangers to kōkako if they attempt to glide across the new SH3 proposed by Option 3, make it a high risk option, unlikely to be approved as suitable for translocation.
Option 2, which travels through the eastern end of Parininihi, will have some impact on the kōkako translocation decision as the route decreases the total area of Parininihi available as continuous bush and although less than under Option 3, an independent kōkako expert is concerned at any reduction in land area. Option 2 would also expose the birds to significant and ongoing noise and air pollution as well as disruption during the construction phase. We have heard suggestions that the new SH3 may be able to be fenced in a way that minimises risks and impact for the kōkako, however we understand this would be entirely experimental as it has not been attempted before.
As Options 2 and 3 jepoardise the translocation decision and survival of the kōkako, Tiaki te Mauri o Parininihi does not support either option.