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Thanks to an active intervention program, at Whangarei Heads we really do have kiwi in our backyard.

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Creating the Backyard Kiwi character

Illustrator Heather Hunt

Illustrator Heather Hunt

Illustrator Heather Hunt explains how the Backyard Kiwi came to be:

In 2009 Whangarei Heads Landcare Forum (WHLF) approached me with “a high class problem”. Having worked steadily at pest control at Whangarei Heads from 1999 the wild kiwi population had increased from 80 to 200 plus. Kiwi were getting killed by pet dogs that had not been tied up at night and others were hit by cars crossing the road in the dark, probably most drivers mistook the birds for other introduced pests –because after all, how many New Zealanders have ever seen a kiwi outside of a zoo or protected reserve?

The Whangarei Heads Landcare Forum Kiwi Recovery Committee (as they were known then) enlisted my help to find a way to inform locals about the burgeoning kiwi population.

So how can you relate to a flightless bird that roams in the dark over private land and bush clad reserves?

We needed something to connect with, something that would represent wild kiwi and let everyone know we have kiwi in our back yard. And it needed a name – “Whangarei Heads Landcare Forum Kiwi Recovery committee” just wasn’t going to cut it. With all the talk of kiwi in our backyard, Backyard Kiwi seemed like a great name to me and the WHLF liked it too.

I decided that we needed a kiwi we could get to know, that was instantly recognizable and would remind us that there are kiwi all over the place.

I spent hours trailing behind Todd Hamiliton listening to him talk about kiwi as he checked on the monitored kiwi around Whangarei Heads. I learnt as much from him talking as we walked as I did from watching and photographing the monitored kiwi. After hours of walking and hundreds of drawings later my kiwi character came to life.

Todd was my best critic. I wanted it to be a kiwi that people could relate to and Todd wanted it to be true to kiwi. I’ve learnt heaps about how kiwi live and move, and between Todd’s exacting and intimate knowledge about ‘real kiwi’ and my scratchy drawing, a unique kiwi with attitude and energy is out and about at Whangarei Heads and all over the world sharing the story of this community’s successful efforts.

I’ve loved the process of working with WHLF to articulate a concept, and seeing it become a real character held affectionately and in high esteem is quite something.

Pest control and awareness of the wild kiwi at Whangarei Heads has extended to the point where it’s estimated there are over 500 kiwi on the peninsula. Their environment is now so safe that the Backyard Kiwi team are now linking up with other groups to create more safe havens for our kiwi as they march on out from Whangarei Heads.