Natureland's Holly Turner shows Rohan O'Neill-Stevens inside the kākā enclosure. Photo: Sara Hollyman.

Helping our native birds flourish


With Conservation Week in full swing Sara Hollyman joined Nelson City Councillor Rohan O’Neill-Stevens at Natureland to look at the important role it plays in repopulating the Top of the South’s native bird population.

Natureland manager Stephen Standley says the organisation’s breed and release programme is the most important one they run, breeding both kākā and yellow-crowned kākāriki to release into the wild around the region.

With three pairs of kākāriki and two pairs of kākā, the team have successfully released both species back into the wild.

“Obviously our aim is to get as many birds out there as possible but you have to balance that with the genetics,” says Stephen.

“If we were to release dozens of chicks from these pairs in one place then you’re going to swamp the gene pool.”

An inquisitive kākā from Natureland's Breed for Release programme. Photo: Sara Hollyman.
An inquisitive kākā from Natureland’s Breed for Release programme. Photo: Sara Hollyman.

He says more kākā will be released into the Abel Tasman during the next year or so and some into the Brook Waimārama Sanctuary.

Rohan O’Neill-Stevens says the long-term goal has to be returning our native species to a situation where they can flourish as they once did.

“I think back to the experience of being in Wellington and being swooped by a kākā, for a whole lot of people backing on to places like Zealandia, you do get that native bird experience in your day-to-day life.”

He says his favourite outdoor experience is one where you’re getting a taste of what Aotearoa used to look like in terms of its flora and fauna.

Avian keeper and self-professed ‘bird nerd’ Holly Turner says by visiting Natureland you are supporting their breed for release work which directly contributes to birds going into the wild in the Top of the South.

“If you are out tramping in the Abel Tasman or visiting the Marlborough Sounds and see birds, it could be thanks to places like Natureland.”

Conservation week runs from August 15-23. For more information visit conservation-week/