Massive predator-free area to be created around Mt Cook

A massive area around Mt Cook is to be cleared of predators in an effort to save our rarest and most endangered species.

The Manahuna Aoraki Project will be three times the size of Auckland and will provide a safe habitat for some of New Zealand's rarest and endangered species

On the river bed just down from the Lake Ruataniwha spillway is a special maternity ward. The newest arrival just a few hours old, but the future for the rare kaki chick - the world's rarest wading bird - is looking brighter.

On Friday it was announced that a large swathe of the Upper Mackenzie basin and Aoraki Mount Cook National park is to become a predator-free zone.

As well as the kaki, the proposed predator-free area is home to some of the country's rarest species including the rock wren and the jewelled gecko.

"We are going to end up with 310,000-hectare predator-free mainland island," says Te Manahuna Aoraki director Phil Tisch.

"It's a massive area roughly twice the size of Stewart Island and three times the size of Auckland."

The first three years of the 20-year project will focus on predator control aiming to reduce rabbit and Canadian geese numbers as well as controlling invasive weeds like broom.

Department of Conservation ranger Liz Brown, who helps run the Kaki captive breeding program on the outskirts of Twizel, says the project will build upon the work they're undertaking which has seen the Kaki's population steadily improve in the last 30 years.

"It's huge for this species, it gives us hope that what we are doing is going to make a difference and ultimately we want to do ourselves out of a job," she says.

But with 40 chicks expected to hatch in the next few weeks, Ms Brown knows she'll be busy for the time being preparing these little birds for release in a new predator-free home.