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An independent assessment of the partnerships of the Department of Conservation with companies and private landowners is needed to ensure that the welfare of indigenous species is at the forefront of any project, says Forest and Bird.

RNZ revealed that DOC has authorized the largest private protection project in the country, Cape Sanctuary in Hawke & # 39; s Bay, to show kiwi to paying guests without a permit, despite concerns about the well-being of birds in his care.

A report on the death of nine Little Spotted Kiwi in 2017 found that they died from neglect because they were not followed well and did not have sufficient predation.

Complaints to DOC blamed their deaths on the focus of the sanctuary to provide Brown Kiwitours to guests at The Farm at Cape Kidnappers – for which it had no license – about pest control and monitoring of Little Spotted Kiwi.

"Concerns were voiced about the fact that there was no permit for dealing with birds in the sanctuary … everyone in the department seemed to be aware of this … and nothing happened because senior management did not want to rock boat, "said Bas Hack Conservation Advisor Kevin Hackwell.

It was a situation that happened all over the country, he said.

"There is a lot of pressure, especially under the previous government when DOC got too little money and its staff was cut." There was a lot of pressure and pressure on the department to register with affluent partners, companies and philanthropists in an effort to part of the conservation work that was the core function, "said Mr. Hackwell.

"And that led to pressure for the department to put some of its conservation values ​​at risk."

The Kiwi Recovery Group, of which Mr. Hackwell was a member, advised to transfer the Little Spotted Kiwi in the first place to Cape Sanctuary, because of the bad pest control and doubts about whether it was a suitable environment for them in the long term .

DOC allowed the transfer anyway, he said.

"It should never have happened," he said, and it was an example of how the department had compromised its conservation values ​​to keep partners happy.

Forest and Bird called for an independent assessment of all DOC partnerships.

"It's time for us to see what's going on and to ensure that we do conservation for conservation, not the conservation that partners want."

Cape Sanctuary now had a license to carry out kiwi hikes and with the strict conditions that no guests were allowed to hold the birds.

Kiwis for Kiwi CEO Michelle Impey said it should be up to the kiwi handler to decide who is treating a bird.

"They will know if a bird is stressed … but I think you can give someone a very safe experience."

Mr. Hackwell intends to address the issue of an independent evaluation of the DOC partnerships with the Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage.

Mrs Sage and DOC did not respond to requests for comments.


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