Capital Kiwi project clearing stoats from 24k hectares around Wellington for iconic bird

Kiwi are being released into the hills around Wellington this year.

It's part of a huge project called Capital Kiwi that's clearing stoats from nearly 24,000ha of land to make way for the iconic bird.

The site stretches from Porirua down to the bottom of the North Island. 

Kiwi contractor Pete Kirkman and his dog See are tracking down stoats on Terawhiti Station. Kiwi will be released here later this year, putting See's special skills to good use.

"She'll go out with me in the bush or wherever there are kiwi and her job is basically to use her nose to find kiwi," Kirkman says.

The iconic bird is not always the most resilient but the Capital Kiwi project is on a mission to get kiwi wandering in Wellington's backyards.

With the help of volunteers, more than 4000 traps have been set up over the past two years - the largest community trap network in New Zealand.

"The biggest predator threat is stoats. In some study populations 100 percent of kiwi chicks are eaten by stoats," Capital Kiwi founder Paul Ward says.

These dead stoats evidence the strategy is working.

The stoat trapping network covers nearly 24,000ha of land that wraps around Wellington City.

It's larger than the Abel Tasman National Park, but unlike areas managed by the Department of Conservation, this project includes hundreds of different landowners. Those landowners have jumped on board with trapping, one them is Michael Grace who owns the 5000ha Terawhiti Station.

"The thought of having kiwi re-introduced onto the property in such a changed landscape is really exciting," he says.

It's part of the wider goal for New Zealand to be predator-free by 2050.

"Eradication is still a really new thing we are doing on the mainland of Aoteoroa, NZ. They are part of a group of landscape projects learning how to do it and do it well," Predator Free 2050 CEO Abbie Reynolds says.

A project on a mission to have more kiwi living in the wild.

"We can have our namesake, our taonga, you know tane mahuta's number one manu, live alongside us," Ward says.