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Wairakei Golf +Sanctuary: a paradise for golfers and our national icon

by Jono Mabey | Director of Experience Golf

No golfer has ever had a bad round at Wairakei Golf and Sanctuary. Yes, they may have had an off day with the clubs, but Wairakei is far more than a round of golf.

The breath of the cool fresh air lifts any rigours of daily life, and lush native surroundings take precedent to your poor putting performance. More importantly, it plays a crucial part in growing our Kiwi population, and today we will find out first-hand about this unique Golf Course coupled with a wildlife Sanctuary.

 Like many Golfers before me, I have been lucky enough to play Wairakei and spot the deer, guinea fowl and other native birdlife. But, the 14 kiwi chicks at Wairakei are not so easy to find. We were lucky enough to spend some time with Will Kahu from 'Save the Kiwi' and learn more about the Sanctuary, his job and potentially come up close and personal with New Zealand's national icon.

Will Kahu ready for the kiwi health check by the clubhouse

Pioneered by the Wairakei owner, Gary Lane, Wairakei’s Sanctuary is a 2-metre high and 5km long ‘Xcluder’ fence around the property, keeping out predators like stoats which are the biggest threat to kiwi chick survival in the wild. Partnering with Save the Kiwi, the Wairakei golf course has become an important place for the kiwi chicks to grow big enough (up to 1 kg) to ward off these predators. Kiwi eggs are transported to Crombie Lockwood Kiwi Burrow, a dedicated kiwi incubation, hatching and brooding centre. Once they have found their footing, around 3-weeks old, some of the kiwi chicks are released into bush areas surrounding the fairways.

Will using the Fox Pro to locate the kiwi's signal

Will, works tirelessly to ensure these kiwi chicks have the best chance to survive; in the wild, the odds stack against them - only a 5% survival rate. He tells us he's pretty tired after an overnight kiwi catching mission in Taranaki but is eager to get the kiwi chick’s regular health checks done.

Jono and Will getting a strong signal

We swapped out a Wedge for a Tr4 and Aerial, a radio receiver used with an antenna, to locate our little friends today.

The beacon sounded, and we were looking into scrub only inches from the fairway. Far too close to where I had hooked my ball in the previous round. Following a couple of unsuccessful attempts, Will locked into some hollow logs and blackberry bushes - prime kiwi real estate and managed to sound one out.

After a bit of cat and mouse, he swooped up the kiwi chick and was cradling our adorable little friend in his arms.

Will weighing and measuring the kiwi's growth

Mission complete, and we were grinning ear to ear. There was something enigmatic about coming face to face with our nocturnal treasure, not at least in the middle of the day—all within steps from the 14th tee box, Wairakei's iconic par 5.

It was humbling to see first-hand the team at Save the Kiwi helping repopulate kiwi in New Zealand.

Wairakei's commitment to the cause highlights how golf can be more than a sport and scorecard but play a vital role in the environment.

Wairakei is already an excellent golf course, and now, knowing what I know, it's not my putting performance that I'm worried about; it's going left into the trees.

How you can help save the kiwi today?

There are many different ways to get involved in saving kiwi, from donating your time to donating your money to making sure your pets don't harm kiwi.

Find your niche among the opportunities on offer – there's a lot you can do to take action and help protect these unique birds.

Learn more about how you can help kiwi, our national icon, thrive

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  4. Wairakei Golf +Sanctuary: a paradise for golfers and our national icon