Company given right to lay pipeline through kiwi sanctuary

A company that's been given the right to take water that originates in a National Park has also been given the right to lay a pipeline through a sanctuary for New Zealand's rarest kiwi.

The 'Alpine Pure' water will come from the Mount Aspiring National Park and could force the removal of up to 35 rare kiwi, the Haast Tokoeka.

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry put out a press release today trumpeting how the Department of Conservation (DoC) has just released some Haast Tokoeka from a breeding programme, back into the very area that's affected.

But Ms Barry has no idea about the pipeline. "I'll need to find out more about the detail of it," she said when asked about it in Parliament on Wednesday.

"It's certainly possible to do and DoC and the other experts in this field are capable of doing that. But you wouldn't want to do it unless there was a really good reason."

The water catchment originates high in the mountains of Mount Aspiring National Park. The intake begins just outside the park boundary and the pipeline goes straight through a Department of Conservation kiwi sanctuary.

The water will then be held at a storage facility, with plans for a pipeline out to sea to waiting ships.

There's just over 400 Haast Tokoeka left in Aotearoa. DoC says its status is "Nationally Critical", and 33 of them are believed to live near the pipeline.

If kiwi get in the way of the project, the consent requires the "capture and/or removal of those kiwi".

The consent, held by Peter Roselli, allows for 800 million litres of water to be taken a month. That's enough to fill 1 billion 750ml bottles. The use of DoC land costs $5000 year, and the consent which expires in 2027 costs nothing, except for minor administration and processing fees.

Mr Roselli says it is a vital economic lifeline for Jackson Bay and the West Coast. He admits there will be an impact on the kiwi.

"I dare say there will be some minor disturbance, but very, very minor though."

Forest and Bird's Kevin Hague says "as New Zealanders, we actually should be doing what we can to protect Kiwis not to put them at further risk."

Tracking down the Haast Tokoeka kiwi in the pipeline's way won't be easy, it is known for its shyness and reclusiveness.

Many of them are up to 20 years old - and they roam about the bush, sheltering somewhere different every day.