Paparahi, is a large forested area which makes up the northern-most
portion of Aotea. Te Paparahi is of significant importance to Ngati
Rehua, it holds Taonga and Spiritual values that pertain to mauri (life
force) and wairua (spiritual nature/forces/essences) of people, flora,
fauna, land and water. Ngati Rehua – Ngatiwai maori land owners and the
Mabeys whanau settlements are on the door-step of Te Paparahi; they have
been the kaitiaki (caretakers) of the area for as long as they have
lived there. Te Paparahi was the last stronghold for kokako on Aotea.
Ngati Rehua and the Department of Conservation plan to work together to
ecologically restore the area in preparation for the return of the
kokako and their dawn chorus.
Photo: Adrain Lambrechts
Historically the kokako was distributed
throughout much of Aotea but numbers dramatically declined over a few
decades, until by the 1970s the birds were found only in Te Paparahi.
Their demise was thought to be because of predation by feral cats and
In the early eighties I remember my aunty
telling me she had heard the kokako that morning on her way to her
favourite fishing spot, only 30 years ago!
In 1982/3 the results of a survey carried
out at Te Paparahi found only twelve kokako.
In 1985 my Uncle Maurice Wii saw three
separate birds in the headwaters of the Ahuriri Stream and the next
In 1993 the survey team found only two
birds, and as a result of this survey, DOC recommended that both birds
be caught and be transferred to the safe refuge of Hauturu.
DOC did talk to and involve Ngati Rehua; and in 1994 my sister Jade
Williams, representing Ngati Rehua, assisted in the capture and transfer
of the last known kokako from Te Paparahi with a team of professional
bird catchers and DOC staff. Ngati Rehua kaumatua, in a ceremony at
Rangiwhakaea, farewelled the bird.
Since then, Ngati Rehua have had many hui
and discussions with DoC over the years regarding Te Paparahi. Part of
the restoration of Te Paparahi included the removal of the feral goats
and wild cattle that damaged the forest understories. In 1986-7 the
goats were removed and in 2008 the cattle cull operation began. Ngati
Rehua considered the cattle to be a resource (kai) that should not be
wasted. Tangata whenua with DOC and contracted hunters had the
opportunity to begin the cull with follow-ups to happen in the near
future. The meat was given to tangata whenua and people on the island
The plan is that when all threats to
kokako are removed or managed the offspring of the relocated Aotea
kokako will be brought back to Te Paparahi. Planning for these events
has to be thorough and does take time. Every body that has an interest
needs to be part of the process. The planned re-introduction doesn’t
simply represent a ‘wish list’ to Ngati Rehua – it is a work in
progress, guided by the knowledge gained from previous conservation work
and continuing research.