A visit to: Kiwi North

Allie Fry, Director Operations at Kiwi North


Tena koutou katoa,

Welcome to Kiwi North.  For those of you who haven’t visited yet we are in Whangarei and home to the only nocturnal house in Te Tai Tokerau Northland.  So this is the only opportunity to see Kiwi and Tuatara under human care in this region. Therefore our audience is very tourism (or used to be) and education focused.

But Kiwi North is so much more. The 25 hectare property was originally bought in 1973 along with Glorat, the original homestead, as a site to build the Whangarei Museum.  Now it is home to the Museum, the Kiwi House, several heritage buildings, original and relocated, and a collection of vintage restoration clubs that are tenants of the Trust.  The homestead and the tiny Oruaiti Chapel are both Heritage NZ Grade 2 listed buildings. Our current nocturnal house was opened in 2011. Park, pastureland and mature native bush have been retained to create a green space held in perpetuity for the community and wider district.

It's quite a bit to manage and maintain with a never-ending list of aging buildings and infrastructure and most early records of who, what and where non-existent!

But it is a beautiful place to come to work everyday and our amazing Kiwi North whanau are really passionate about what they do whether they are working with the Museum collections or the living animal collection.  They all love to share their knowledge and are always learning themselves. They are great advocates and ‘visitor host’ is included in every single Kiwi North job description!

Our role here within the wider conservation program is obviously education about and advocacy for our native species, environments and ecosystems. We have a Learning Outside The Classroom (LEOTC) contract with the Ministry of Education (MOE) which funds the salary of our educator.  She works with all the schools in Northland, now having to adapt to working off-site at their place more than here as costs for travel are preventative for many schools due to the low socioeconomic status of our region.  Being such a unique combination of both social and natural history along with living taonga tapu, enables her to offer a huge variety of bespoke programs that align with the curriculum.  We also work with a large conservation partnership often uniting for community events such as our annual local A&P Show.  We link our messages and believe that getting the very young involved is the best way forward for the future protection of our environment.


Our role within the kiwi house is to raise the youngsters of the captive program until they are ready for breeding or release to sanctuary. We have just said goodbye to Zephyr and Raukura who have taken up residence at Te Puia and will hopefully be breeding successfully soon. Our new pair are just 6 and 10 months old, coming from Willowbank and Westshore.

While they are here with us they will be well cared for, and will teach thousands of visitors and school children just why kiwi are so special and what they can do to help them and other native animals.  In a couple of years we will have to say goodbye again which is always tough even when you know they are going to a great home or that they will be released and their young will be wild-born.

With every translocation we strip the nocturnal house, change the burrows, do any repairs needed, replenish the environment with all new leaf litter, foliage, logs etc before the new pair arrive.  Having only one nocturnal house this usually happens in just one day with all hands-on deck! We are hugely appreciative for the support of everyone involved in these translocations, especially Todd Jenkinson, the Department of Conservation (DOC) relocations team and the staff at the receiving and sending facilities.  Being at one end of the country can be quite isolating and it is great to engage with others within the sector whenever we can.  We are grateful for all training opportunities if we can get to them.

Along with our kiwi pair we house several species of native gecko and single tuatara. Ten year old Flash is a poster boy and we are sure he really enjoys coming out for encounters during the school holidays and for booked groups. We find visitors know very little about tuatara and they are fascinated to learn all about them.

We work hard to get our visiting public to understand just why we have kiwi and other native animals here, how the program work and our role within them, the planned outcomes and that the animal welfare always comes first. They cannot support us all if they do not understand the how and why of what we do. As a very small team we are extremely proud to hold ZAA Accreditation, Qualmark Certification and to be a Tripadvisor Customer Choice winner.

With half of our annual market stuck on the other side of the planet and Tai Tokerau Northland becoming an island whenever Auckland goes into lockdown, we were hugely relieved and grateful to receive STAPP and WIRF funding. For us these were lifelines and we have managed to retain both our collection and full team. For now we bounce from one school holiday period to the next, depending largely on New Zealanders taking on the message to “See something different NZ”.

So that is a bit about Kiwi North but there is much more.  If any other ZAA members are in the area we would love to see you and show you our place.

Hei konā mai,

Allie and team at Kiwi North

Allie Fry Director Operations Kiwi North