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Paul Ward has an unwavering love of Kiwis. Not just his fellow friends, neighbours and Newtown residents, but the native birds with the chop-stick bill and dinosaur claws who he works tirelessly to return to the whenua in Wellington.
Paul is the driving force behind Capital Kiwi – a large-scale community conservation project dedicated to bringing the kiwi back to Kiwis. This 2018 Wellingtonian of the Year finalist and passionate ‘bird nerd’ shares a bit about his groundbreaking work, along with a few of his favourite spots to visit around the city when he’s not stuck in the remote backblocks trapping stoats.
When I was a teenager in the 90s, the only birds I saw around Wellington were pigeons, sparrows and blackbirds. On the back of a spillover from ZEALANDIA, plus council possum control and widespread community-led efforts, our native birdlife in Wellington has since flourished: tūī are everywhere, kererū are load-testing power lines, kākā are drinking local craft sugar-water on Aro Street, kārearea are dive-bombing politicians above the Beehive, and there’s even nesting saddleback/tīeke up the road in Polhill Reserve. We’ve shown we can welcome back kākā and tūī, so now bringing back kiwi would be the ultimate reward for all that predator-free mahi.
As a community, there’s one pivotal action we can take to enable kiwi to thrive - and that’s getting rid of stoats. By the end of winter 2019, Capital Kiwi will have placed 4,400 traps - including some gas-powered self-resetting A24s from local company, Goodnature - over 23,000ha from Porirua to Red Rocks.
From Whakatane to Oban, kiwi re-population projects have shown that Kiwis and kiwi can live together. Over the harbour in Sunny Grove, Wainuiomata, residents get to fall asleep with their own Goodnight Kiwi calling, thanks to the efforts of the Remutaka Forest Park Trust.
One of my favourite things to do on my days off is to pack a picnic and take a ramble up Polhill Reserve. The Brooklyn Trail Builder's seat along the Clinical trail has one of the sweetest views in Wellington. You can watch squadrons of kākā screeching in the sky above and be serenaded by tīeke. I’m stoked my kids get to experience manu that I, growing up in Marton and Johnsonville, could only read about in books - it's pretty special.
Garage Project Taproom on Aro Street is my favourite pit-stop after checking the Polhill Protectors’ stoat and rat trap-lines. It’s a great way to reward visitors and volunteers for looking after our wild Wellington backyard. The Taproom is also Capital Kiwi’s unofficial office (from Friday late arvo). Designer Tomas Cottle, whose work you may recognise on a can of Garage Project's Garagista, created Capital Kiwi’s banner.
Peoples Coffee in Newtown is my local and aside from the reliable primo coffee and French Cancan pastries (almond croissants are the bottom of my food pyramid), it’s always chocka with characters and conversations. If I’m in the central city, then my favourite stop is Milk Crate for Brigid’s baking, or Ekor which gets my daughters’ votes (they know they’ll come away with a book!). Commonsense Organics is our go-to for filling up on all the stuff that's good for you and good for the earth (full disclosure: my partner runs their corporate team and her folks, Jim and Marion, are the founders).
The South Coast is a magical spot. Capital Kiwi's operations team has been so privileged to lay traps on the stations of the southwest. It’s pretty epic standing on a wind-blasted ridge over Te Kamaru Bay overlooking the Cook Strait to Tapuae-o-Uenuku, or looking up past Mill Creek to Mana and Kāpiti. It’s exciting to think this whenua will have kiwi footprints on it again soon.
I also love seal spotting at Red Rocks (look out for kiwi night tours not too far away), jumping off the wharf at Hataitai Beach with the girls after school on a hot day, and checking out the korora (penguins) coming ashore at Evan’s Bay around dusk.