Thursday, August 11, 2016

Project Kiwi

Project Kiwi
Sue Hoffart

How one man’s passion for the land hatched
New Zealand’s first community kiwi sanctuary

 Published by Penguin, August 2016, RRP: 40.00

Communities can create a sea-change and impact positively on their natural environments. This couldn’t be truer than for the community conservation project that is saving New Zealand’s endangered kiwi on Coromandel’s Kuaotunu Peninsula. And it started with one ‘good Kiwi bloke’ – Warwick Wilson.

Wilson, now in his eighties, is audacious and charismatic; a raconteur, whose history reads like a Barry Crump novel. Born in Remuera, Wilson grew up on the family farm in South Auckland and was educated at King’s College. After a successful career in banking and compulsory military service, Wilson returned to farming. Always the entrepreneur, he enjoyed forays into real estate, property development and hunting safaris. It was a boom/bust life and one that led to him becoming an ‘accidental ecologist’.

Typical of Wilson were his negotiations in the 1960s to purchase Waitaia Beach and the surrounding 456 hectares of scrub, rough pasture, regenerating native forest and, unbeknown to him at the time, a clutch of Coromandel kiwi. Over numerous beers, along with his business partner, Wilson said, “Let’s do it and worry about the money later.” And so they did, and a community conservation story was born. 

Project Kiwi Trust is the first community-based project in New Zealand to protect kiwi and is a flagship for kiwi conservation nationwide. Their work has seen survival rates of New Zealand’s endangered Coromandel-kiwi population increase incrementally and, this year, the Trust celebrates its 20th anniversary.

To mark this milestone, the Trust got behind the publication of Project Kiwi and in so doing shares its pioneering ecological story. It also pays tribute to the high-octane life of Warwick Wilson, a man whose determined efforts over 50 years of owning his coastal property at Waitaia Beach have helped to rescue New Zealand’s national bird.

The Project Kiwi Trust has also been a distinctively family affair, with Wilson’s daughter-in-law Paula Williams and son-in-law Jono Williams, taking on management of the Trust in 2008. Their drive and energy have culminated in even greater success and visibility of the work being done to save the brown kiwi. Paula Williams is now the chief manager of the Trust.

Project Kiwi author Sue Hoffart says, “In relaying the story of Waitaia’s remarkable human caretakers and avian inhabitants, we also hope to attract more help and more attention to the Project Kiwi cause.
If Warwick Wilson is right, saving these birds may be key to holding on to much that is precious about our unique New Zealand landscape and way of life.”

About the author:
Sue Hoffart is a freelance writer with a background in daily news journalism. She has written for just about every quality lifestyle magazine in New Zealand, including North & South, NZ Life & Leisure,
Next and KiaOra. The former Waikato farm girl has been living the Tauranga dream for more than 20 years. She and her family have spent many happy holidays at Waitaia Beach.

Project Kiwi is a unique and compelling story which brings together a curious little flightless creature, and a cast of utterly dedicated Kiwi characters, intent on saving our beloved national bird.

The book’s chief photographer Jake Morgan brings the story to life with stunning, evocative images of nature, kiwi and humans at work and play.

Here is Warwick Wilson’s delightful interview with Jesse Mulligan:

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