When I moved here from the West Island 14 years ago it struck me how resilient the Kiwi bush and animals were, if given the chance. When pests are eliminated and the environment is given a few prods in the right direction, recovery of forests and bird populations seems to happen very fast.
Predator Free New Zealand has announced an ambitious plan to remove all rats, mustelids and possums from the entire country by 2050. This goal, now adopted by the Government, would relieve the pressures of introduced predators on native birds, reptiles and invertebrates and enable NZ’s native plants and wildlife to recover and flourish.
To clear the whole country of pest predators will require a sizeable commitment to new conservation technologies and substantial funding for implementation. However, as always, people can adopt their own “Act Local” approach at relatively little cost.
One of the steps along the path to a Predator Free NZ is to develop “Halo” projects based around pest-free reserves like the Tawharanui and Shakespear open sanctuaries.
Essentially, we can leverage the gains of these sanctuaries though providing pest-free areas in the surrounding landscape to allow for birds to ‘overflow’ into a relatively safe environment. Residents close to Tawharanui can now enjoy bellbirds and kaka breeding around their houses as a reward for judicious trapping. Takatu Community Landcare Project and Forest and Bird’s Pest Free Peninsula at Whangaparaoa have embraced this concept and their efforts to control rats, possums and stoats have the added bonus of reducing the pressure of pests on the sanctuaries.
But it is not only rural communities that can benefit. Surprisingly, rats can be controlled in urban areas with only one in five households trapping. And that has obvious advantages for people as well as wildlife. So, what are you waiting for? Get together with your neighbours and start a movement! If you have some bush nearby, why not team up with others and maintain some traps there as well (but ask the Council or the owner first).
You can use simple snap-traps, all-purpose DOC 200 traps, or if you don’t want to handle dead rats or are often away from home then a self-resetting trap from GoodNature might be worth investing in. Imagine having bellbirds calling from the tree outside your kitchen window.
So in 2050, if all goes according to plan, what will NZ look like? More amazingly, what will NZ sound like? There is a time machine called Tawharanui Open Sanctuary bursting with wildlife where you can find out right now!