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In an extraordinary example of how cruise passengers can make a real difference to the communities they visit, Princess Cruises has set out to revive New Zealand’s iconic kiwi bird in the Bay of Islands.

With a $100,000 donation over the first year, and funded by passenger donations of just $2, the project will raise $1 million and focus on supporting community groups committed to conservation efforts and forest regeneration around the Bay of Islands and Northland.

It’s all part of the Princess Local Partnerships program, designed to encourage the return of the kiwi and other native birds to an area visited by Princess ships.

The line, which carries more passengers to New Zealand than any other, is anticipating a 20 per cent rise in guest numbers in 2020-21. Princess carried more than 100,000 passenger to New Zealand last season.

Princess Cruises Senior Vice President Asia Pacific, Stuart Allison, said it made sense to begin the Princess Local Partnerships in New Zealand.

“Because we come to New Zealand more than any other destination in this region it was logical it would be New Zealand, and we spend a lot of time in the Bay of Islands setting up a market with the local Maori community at Waitangi, that opened the door to other conversations.”

That led to an introduction to the community groups, and the line found out their work needed help.

“If we can get their area to a point where we start to see kiwis and other birds returning to the area, it will elevate the project in terms of government funding.”

Mr Allison said the “modest” $2 donation” through guests’ onboard accounts would raise $1 million in the next five years. He said the line was looking at adapting shore excursions for projects like tree planting.

“One of the reasons our guests come back to New Zealand again and again is because they like the unique wildlife.”

He said in time it was possible the wildlife experts from the area may come on board Princess ships to talk about the area, and a video made for the project will be shown to guests.

“Princess Local Partnerships is an extension of that deep relationship that already exists between the cruise line and its guests for communities across the Tasman. Our research tells us guests want to connect more deeply with the places they visit and give back to the local communities who so generously welcome us into what is effectively their backyard.

Kiwi Coast and Bay Bush Action, two volunteer organisations, will work with Princess.  Kiwi Coast brings together more than 120-community led conservation projects across the Northland region, including the efforts of Bay Bush Action, which focuses on returning native birds, including kiwi and sea birds, to Opua State Forest.

The fund will support:

  • tree planting projects across streams, wetlands and forests in Northland around Waitangi, Keri Keri and the Northland region.
  • educating children through funding the development and publication of resources that can be used in conservation education across Northland.
  • supporting the rollout of a program that involves locally-based conservationists visiting more than 30 schools in Northland to raise awareness of the importance of protecting the forests. The program includes children adopting, painting and, ultimately, monitoring special kiwi houses to protect the birds in the forest.

Kiwi Coast’s Andy Mentor said New Zealand has an amazing array of bird life – almost two-thirds of which are found nowhere else on earth such as the kiwi and Pateke, the world’s fourth rarest duck.

“I want to be part of creating an environment where kiwi and other native birds thrive and safely roam throughout our forests in Northland, creating a modern-day ‘kiwi corridor’ in this region,” Mr Mentor said.

Bay Bush Action’s Brad Windust said New Zealand was the “seabird mecca” of the world.

the Pateke duck, New Zealand

“My one wish is that the forest and, in particular, the Opua State Forest that I love so much, will explode with wildlife again like it once did a couple of hundred years ago,” Mr Windust said.

“We have something really unique here in the Bay of Islands with a massive backdrop of native forest that rolls right down to the ocean and I want to see it back to its former glory.”

Princess Cruises Local Partnerships donations will start this cruise season, which will see five Princess ships visiting New Zealand ports.  A season highlight will be the maiden visit of Ruby Princess to Bay of Islands on 2 December 2019.

Mr Allison said the season of 2020-21 would be the line’s biggest, with Regal Princess sailing across the Tasman and Pacific Princess doing a cruise, there will be a 20 per cent increase in capacity.

“We are by far the biggest operator and by far the biggest contributor to the $570 million injected into the economy.”