Predator Free By 2050?

Predator Free 2050 is an ambitious goal to rid New Zealand of the most damaging introduced predators that threaten our nation’s natural taonga, our economy and primary sector. Department of Conservation (DoC) website

At a recent meeting of the Kapiti Restoration groups Rob Stone, from Predator Free NZ, spoke about the project to rid the country of pests by the middle of the century. The article below is a summary of what he said.

An ambitious project initiated by the government

By Roger Childs

The big guns at the Zealandia launch: Stephen Joyce, John Key and Maggie Barry
The big guns at the Zealandia launch: Stephen Joyce, John Key and Maggie Barry

The scheme was launched at Zealandia in July and John Key, Maggie Barry and Stephen Joyce were there. They emphasized that it was not just about eradicating pests, but also about promoting economic development.

If you were to click to read more, you’d know that the concept had its origins in 2012 when the current strategy on pest control centred on having “ halos” like Zealandia, Wairakei Golf Course and Lee Bay Reserve on Stewart Island, where predator-proof fences could allow zones to become pest-free.

In time these could be linked with other zones by corridors.

There was a lot of soul searching about whether a nationwide campaign was worth the effort. Sir Paul Callaghan, the government’s science adviser at the time, was convinced that although ambitious, it could work.

The strategy

Currently the strategy for pest eradication centres on getting rid of rats, mustelids and possums. Rob said that we are holding the line, but we need more. It’s not just about predators, but also about cleaner water and getting rid of noxious weeds.

The Predator Free NZ strategy was about

  • predator-free-2050establishing 2025 and 2050 goals
  • finding additional funds
  • setting up a new company
  • facilitation from DoC
  • having a new delivery network.

The company has been set up and is simply called Predator Free New Zealand.

A key element of the strategy will be getting the science right and making use of the latest technology. Remote sensors for traps are already widely used and research is proceeding on developing more sophisticated lures.

By 2025 it is hoped to have all off shore islands pest-free as well as a million hectares of mainland New Zealand.

Success factors, finance and goals

Rob spelt out three key “success factors”

Stoats are habitual bird eaters but possums are not.
Stoats are habitual bird eaters but possums are not.

Hearts and minds Getting the public on board and doing their bit like having traps in the backyard and getting rid of the rats around the compost heap.

  • Collective input DoC is a key player, however local authorities have a key role to play as well as the general public.
  • Technological breakthroughs Continuing to look at new ways of operating and developing appropriate technology.
  • By 2050 the purpose is to eradicate possums, rats and stoats from New Zealand.

    This is probably about a $3 billion project.

    At present the government provides $70 million of which:

    • $40 million goes to OSPRI
    • $20 million to Councils
    • $10 million to DoC.

    In the short term there are four key goals:

    predator-free-3

    ~ establish the company (done)

    ~ agree engagement

    ~ expand the partners

    ~ agree on a science plan.

    DoC had done a stock take of the needs and has been supporting local projects. For example, farmers and other landowners near Cape Kidnappers have agreed on a pest eradication project and this is aimed to set up a corridor through to Napier City to the north.

    Seen as a predator and not as a resource
    Seen as a predator and not as a resource

    Questions

    These ranged from what about dealing with feral cats and mice, to the question of predator definition and whether possums can be categorized as predators.