A 30-year history realised in a 30 month “labour of love”

Last Updated : 23 Nov 2023
Kokako Book

A history of a successful conservation project put to paper.

That’s how Lenny van Heugten describes her book of the herculean effort by Auckland Council staff, Department of Conservation and volunteers to bring the kōkako population back from the brink in the Hūnua Ranges.

It’s a remarkable story of a 30-year conservation effort that’s seen 25 birds back in the early nineties, where there was just one breeding pair to, at last count in 2022, a record breaking 259 pairs.

Auckland Council’s Chair of the Planning, Environment and Parks Committee Richard Hills says the success of the project is testament to the commitment of many over a long period of time.

“The Kōkako Management Area (KMA) project has seen the result of perseverance and dedication. With almost 500 birds recorded in the KMA now, it shows the project’s success is down to a combination of huge volunteer efforts plus significant public investment over a sustained period.
“Losing these birds was not an option; the decision to invest in protecting the kōkako has delivered remarkable results and highlights why we should continue to support the programme. It is a tribute to the pest control work of generations of volunteers and council staff and their hard work.”

Van Heugten has a personal connection with the project having explored the Hūnua Ranges with her parents from an early age, later helping her father as a volunteer with baiting.

“Throughout my life while growing up, I met and became inspired by many of the humble people I ended up interviewing in the process of writing the book. It was an honour to ensure their stories were recorded.

“I'm passionate about the contribution community and volunteers can make to conservation on a variety of levels, and those efforts should not go unnoticed.

“This book has spurred people to talk with a renewed sense of pride about what the project has achieved and to tell their stories of their ancestors in the area and I hope it motivates and aids the success of other conservation projects around the country.”

Auckland Council’s General Manager of Environmental Services Rachel Kelleher says documenting one of council’s conservation success stories is a legacy for the future.

“The kōkako recovery programme shows conservation at its best, where, through the hard work of predator control and habitat restoration, we’ve been able, council, mana whenua, Department of Conservation and community to ensure these rare and most striking of birds flourish once more.”

The book will be launched at the Auckland Botanic Gardens on Friday 24 November 2023. Copies can be purchased here

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