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Take 5: Tara Iti

Welcome to Take 5 where I take 5 questions to some lovely people I know (and some I don’t) and they tell us a little about themselves.
This Take 5 is a little different as I am talking with a critter. A very small, critter that needs our help.

The Tara Iti is one of our rarest and most threatened species. This critically endangered bird has only 16 breeding pairs left in Aotearoa, with 12 pairs surviving on beaches between Whangarei and Auckland. The Endangered Species Foundation has identified tara iti (the New Zealand Fairy Tern) in its Top Ten Most Endangered Species List.

"This year seven tara iti chicks have made themselves at home across the Mangawhai breeding sites this season, the most we've seen since the 2013-2014 season. There are 12 chicks in total for the 2021- 2022 season and with a population of only around 45 individuals, it is a massive win for the species,” says the Department of Conservation.

So with this in mind, I pull up a pebble and talk to one of our most precious creatures....

It is incredibly sad to think that there are only 45 of your kind left in the world. Can you tell us what risks you face?

Lots of things effect us. Storms and higher tides can wipe out our nests and chicks. Sand mining is a major threat to our nesting sites. Rats, ferrets, cats and dogs can prey on us and our eggs and chicks alike. And of course human activity impacts on us greatly.

There's also the constant threat of loss of our food source, fish and marine life disappearing.

 You have a friend in The Endangered Species Foundation. How do they help?

The Endangered Species Foundation is collaborating with mana whenua, local communities, NGO’s and other key stakeholders to highlight and protect iti.

Public awareness campaigns are currently underway to engage, educate and encourage action from key stakeholders and the public and attention is being drawn to the issues and actions people can take to make a difference to save this rare bird.

Local group Save our Sand Mangawhai Pakiri has been set-up to campaign and draw attention to the issue and a petition has been set-up here. Save our Sand Mangawhai Pakiri are a group of concerned community members, business people, parents, lawyers and scientists all deeply worried about what they have witnessed happening to the beaches due to over 70 years gross sand mining. They are all volunteers and a united group made up of Te Whanau o Pakiri, Friends of Pakiri Beach and The Mangawhai Harbour Restoration Society, with planning, communications and coordination support from the Endangered Species Foundation and Greenpeace.

Recently the Endangered Species Foundation added to urgent calls, asking the Auckland Council to end sand mining at Pakiri, to protect the critically endangered tara iti. Hearings have recently been held by the Auckland City Council to renew the resource consent for sand mining by Kaipara Ltd, who want to take another 2 million cubic metres of sand from the beach over the next 20 years.

McCallum Bros Limited has also applied for resource consents to extract sand from an area of 6.6km2 along 10.4km of the Pakiri Beach shoreline. The proposed extraction volumes include an annual average of up to 125,000m3/year over any consecutive 5 year period. A 35 year consent is sought. These hearings are currently underway.

What can people do to help?

There are 4 easy ways to help me and my family. 

1. Sign the petition to stop sand mining at Mangawhai Pakiri.

You can sign this petition, calling on the NZ Government and Auckland Council, to stop the renewal, and granting of new sand mining consents in the Mangawhai - Pakiri Embayment.

2. Join the Endangered Species Foundation
You can give a donation to the Endangered Species Foundation to help protect habitats of endangered species and advocate for their survival. They aim to protect the rarest of Aotearoa species by mobilising movements and supporting conservation projects to nurture nature.

You can donate via the website:

3. Help protect my nesting sites and habitats
  •  Please always keep your dog on a leash if you are on Pakiri, Te Arai, Mangawhai or Waipu beaches

  • Stay far away from our nesting sites

  • Support protections for the areas where us NZ Fairy Terns catch our food (small fish)

4. Become a volunteer

If you live in the area, volunteers are needed to help save the New Zealand fairy tern (Tara-iti). Each summer dedicated volunteers help DOC by keeping an eye on us tiny, plucky birds.

There are fewer than 40 of us so you can help by watching out for us during the nesting season. It's very rewarding to observe our courtships, us sitting on eggs and the hatching of our bumble bee sized chicks. Even eventually watch them learn to fly.

If you would like to become a volunteer, introductory workshops are held where you meet other volunteers. Please contact:


Northland DOC: Ayla Wiles: 027 412 0969
Waipu Co-ordinator: Robyn Davies: 021 846 649
Mangawhai Co-ordinator: Dawne Sanson:
027 289 3185
Auckland DOC: Shelley Ogle: 027 270 6589
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