Brown kiwi spend first night in Hunua Ranges

Five young North Island brown kiwi have spent their first night in the Hunua Ranges.

It's been more than 40 years since kiwi roamed the south Auckland suburb because of pests and predators.

"Basically they've been killed by predators," says handler Jonathan Miles. "The stoats kill the kiwi chicks, and other larger predators like ferrets will kill the adults."

But as of Friday night, five junior brown kiwi now call the rugged bush home.

Just a few hours after they were placed into their makeshift burrows, the kiwi ventured out into their new neighbourhood.

"We still have the threat if somebody comes in to this area with a dog not on a leash, they could undo the work that hundreds of people have contributed," says Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.

The area is now intensely managed. It's littered with bait stations and traps to catch predators like possums, stoats and rats. Thanks to a drop of 1080 two years ago, it's now safe for kiwi and other native wildlife to return.

"It's deeply moving and exciting for us as a marae, as an iwi and a people of the area - yeah, beautiful," says Wharekawa Marae Trust chairman Tipa Compain.

Before their release the kiwi were welcomed to the Wharekawa Marae, giving those who have worked tirelessly on this project a chance to say goodbye.

For the past few months the kiwi have been living on Project Kiwi founding member Warwick Wilson's property in the Coromandel.

"We've been going backwards for a couple of centuries," says Mr Wilson. "I feel pretty excited a little bit of this."

The plan is to have 40 released in the next few months.

This isn't the last the handlers will see of the kiwi. Each has been fitted with a transmitter so their locations can be tracked, and in a few weeks' time they'll be recaptured for a health check.

And in the unlikely event one of the kiwi doesn't survive, the place where it's found will be treated as a crime scene so the rangers can figure out why and how it died.