First kiwi released in Wellington after four-year pest-eradication project

On Saturday, for the first time in generations, 11 kiwi are roaming the hills around Wellington.

They're the first of 250 to be released in Te Whanganui a Tara-Wellington after a four-year project to eradicate pests.

It's a big step forward towards the country's goal of being predator free by 2050. 

A mere 20-minute drive from the centre of Wellington and you'll find the suburb of Mākara. 

"It's a rural area, the community are very good - I get marvellous support from the community," resident Ted Smith said.

The 94-year-old has lived in Mākara for more than 70 years.

From Saturday, Smith will be sharing his home with hundreds of kiwi, a day he's been waiting years for.

"Since then my health's been up and down a little bit, so I said 'hang on I've got to get to November 19' so I made it, I'll probably drop dead tomorrow," Smith laughed.

Kiwi Project lead Paul Ward said: "It will be the first time in a long long time, many generations that we will be hearing kiwi calling from these hills."

The 11 kiwi travelled from Waikato to their new home and were welcomed by the whole community including mana whenua.

After a powhiri and a quick meet and greet, the kiwi were tagged with transmitters so officials could keep a close eye on them.

It's the start of something bigger - over the next six years Wellington's backyard will become home to 250 kiwi.

"This is a big milestone for the project but in some ways also the startline so they are both a gift and a challenge," Ward said.

Over the past four years, the team's been maintaining the largest community-owned stoat trap network in the country.

There are 4500 traps spread across 23,000 hectares from the bottom of North Island to the edge of Porirua.

Predator Free 2050 said the project is a big step towards reaching the goal. 

"This shows that in our capital city or just next to our capital city we can have kiwi, we can get the stoats down to a level where we will soon eliminate them," Predator Free 2050 CEO Rob Forlong said.

"Before long we will have people in town complaining that kiwi are keeping them up at night."