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Planting Trees and Saving KiwiA few hundred years ago, millions of kiwi flooded our forests. Despite their tendency to stay hidden, kiwi were unmissable and eventually became the unlikely symbol for an entire nation’s cultural identity. Now, the humble kiwi need our help. There are only 68,000 of them left in Aotearoa, and this number is declining by 2% every year. It’s for this reason that Rheem NZ has been proudly supporting Save the Kiwi for the past three years, offering their time and money to help the organisation achieve their goal of protecting our national bird. To reverse the decline of the kiwi population, Save the Kiwi works alongside iwi, conservation groups, the Department of Conservation and a number of other like-minded organisations committed to providing kiwi with safe habitat. One of these partners is The Forest Bridge Trust. They run a farm in Mataia, near the Kaipara Harbour, which has provided a pest-free environment for kiwi for over a decade. The Forest Bridge Trust’s long-term goal is to form what they have labelled the ‘Central Bridge’ – apredator-controlled corridor of land that connects two existing wildlife sanctuaries: Mataia Restoration project in the west, and Tawharanui Regional Park in the east.Rheem NZ was invited to Mataia recently to help with the Trust’s ongoing conservation efforts. Paul Watson was one of the six Rheem volunteers who headed out west and he only had positive things to say about their day on the farm. “The plan was to plant 3000 native shrubs and grasses on the day, and there were only 35 of us. We gave it a pretty good go!” Paul says. “The farm itself is a working farm, but it hosts kiwi, and I think they’ve increased the population from 60 to 100. “It was more around containing silt runoff for this particular project, but overall we were volunteering to help out the volunteers who look after the farm, and obviously look after the kiwi.” Despite volunteers from different organisations joining in on the day, Paul says it was a great team effort. “Everyone was there for the same reason, and the weather was kind – we were expecting rain but didn’t get any! “The guys from Save the Kiwi were there, and the farm owners were there… and they were kind enough to put on a BBQ at the end of the day and provide us with food throughout the day.” This may have been Paul’s first time, but Rheem is regularly involved in Save the Kiwi’s volunteer days. “We provide a number of people twice a year to planting programmes, and they tend to be in different places,” Paul says. While Save the Kiwi and the Forest Bridge Trust have already made great strides in their conservation efforts, they have even bigger plans for the future. From 2025, the Trust hope to extend their Central Bridge north and south to create an even larger safe haven for kiwis between the Kaipara Harbour and the Pacific Coast. Donating to their cause is always an option, but if you want to get your hands dirty and see the good work these organisations are doing for yourself, they always welcome volunteers. Scan the QR code to register your interest, or contact Rheem and they will point you in the right direction.Rheem proudly supports Save the Kiwi to achieve their goal and take kiwi from endangered to everywhere. If you’d like to take part and help save New Zealand’s national icon, go to www.savethekiwi.nz/donate – Your donation will help hatch and raise kiwi chicks in safety, increase kiwi populations, and protect wild kiwi habitat.