Northland native bird recovery centre stuck for funds

By Regan Paranihi

The Whangarei Native Bird Recovery Centre has rescued over 25,000 birds since it was established 25 years ago to help sick and injured wild birds, but the loss of a major sponsor has left the centre needing to find other funding avenues to keep afloat. 

The centre owner, Robert Webb, is calling on the public for help to keep the native birds alive.

"There's a lot involved with keeping the centre running and we are very proud of what we've done up here ourselves because we have a good relationship with the local people, we have a fantastic relationship with the different iwi in Northland here, and we didn't want to see that left behind."

Webb had been driving trucks for years when he realised his passion to save and help wild birds.

"I'd be driving through to Auckland and I'd see an injured hawk on the side of the road, so I'd stop, pick him up and chuck him in the cab of the truck. Then, on the weekend, go to the local vet and say, what can I do to help this bird?" he says.

Around 300 deceased native birds are shipped to DOC in Wellington each year and Webb says they are given back to local Northland iwi as a mark of respect.

"They're held in their freezers down there. Once a month, the iwi go down there, the iwi get the birds out... But to think that the feathers are going to be used to end up as a beautiful korowai or something like that, to me that's what it's all about and it's really showing respect for the bird."

Pauline Rose from ride-sharing company Uber Group says they are working hard with the centre to keep the initiative going.

"What I want to do now is work with Robert and some other businesses, and just work out how we can ensure that there is a bit more security around the funding ongoing."

She says a way to make it possible is to look for similar companies who have the same vision as them.

"Working with businesses who we think would have the same kind of values and ideals that Uber does and would see this as something valuable to do for the community."

Rose says their Givealittle page (which is now closed) has secured funding for another year, however, the centre is not out of the woods yet.