Reintroducing kākāpō to North Island one step closer with $42m eco-sanctuary proposal

Reintroducing kākāpō to the North Island is one step closer.

It's part of a $42 million proposal to create a 3000-hectare eco-sanctuary in Wainuiomata north of Wellington.

Three-thousand hectares of green goodness - the perfect home for our most endangered birds.

"I think the kākāpō will really love this place," Taranaki Whanui CE Lee Hunter said.

Conservationists agree. A feasibility study touts this native forest as the ideal habitat for species like kākāpō, hihi and kiwi.

"It's big, it's dominated by rimu which is what kākāpō really need for breeding and it's also easily accessible," said Andrew Digby, from the Department of Conservation.

To bring the idea to life the study estimates $42 million over a decade would finance consents, infrastructure and the eradication of pests.

"It would probably be unlike any other single biodiversity project that you could imagine in New Zealand," said Thomas Nash from the Wellington Regional Council.

"The area is twice the size of Kapiti Island. You could completely exclude predators from it."

To keep pests out a 29km predator-proof fence standing two-metres high lines the sanctuary's perimeter. A new 16km road will also be needed to facilitate the fence.

If it gets the green light, the plan is to relocate at least 150 kākāpō here from the only 197 alive today.

DoC, the regional council and mana whenua will join forces to make it happen.

"We will care for those taonga species as best we can, alongside them of course and alongside experts in conservation," Hunter said.

"There might be $160 million worth of knock-on effects for the economy locally as well as all of the biodiversity benefits," Nash added.

The fate of this project now rests with the Government which is considering funding the proposal.

"We don't have many alternatives if we want to bring those threatened species [back] from the brink, here's one that would work, let's give it a nudge," Nash said.

And assurances are being made Wellington's weather won't put the potential new arrivals off.

"They're pretty used to some wild weather, the southern islands where they live - it's pretty rugged," Digby said.

"The wild weather up here probably won't worry them too much I hope," Nash added.

Hope which could mean more kākāpō in the future.