For a flightless bird, the rare Coromandel brown kiwi made a grand entrance from the sky this morning as it was chauffeured by a helicopter on to Motutapu Island where conservationists hope its population will thrive.
Five of the rare kiwi were released on the predator-free island in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf Marine Park in a major diversification programme aimed at strengthening the species' ability to survive.
An 11-day-old chick, named Motutapu after its new island home, was the youngest released today and it will be followed by up to another 50 relatives over the next four to six years.
Christine Fletcher, chairwoman of the Motutapu Restoration Trust, shed tears of joy as she watched from the wharf as a helicopter carrying the kiwi landed.
The restoration of the island and conservation of the kiwi is "about creating a second Auckland for our rare animals ... and to recreate our ancient world" just minutes from the heart of the country's largest city, she said.
"This is a cause for celebration ... that there are still safe places to release kiwi," Rob Fenwick, chairman of the Kiwis for Kiwi Trust, said after a powhiri welcoming the birds.