Predator-free New Zealand next step in conservation programme

Column Articles
Wednesday, August 31, 2016

New Zealand’s native birds and plants are a treasured part of our nation’s identity. We use symbols of the kiwi and the silver fern to represent our country, and our native species are a huge source of national pride.

However, many of our most threatened native animals come under constant attack from introduced predators such as rats, stoats and possums. These animals kill around 25 million native birds a year and are the most significant cause of New Zealand’s decline of threatened species.

Predators also wreak havoc for our agricultural sector by spreading disease, and destroying pasture, crops and forestry which is especially significant for us here in the Bay. As well as being responsible for a widespread loss of biodiversity, introduced pests also threaten the economy and primary sector, with their total economic cost estimated at around $3.3 billion a year.

The Government recently revealed its plan to tackle these rampant rodents by announcing an ambitious goal of ridding New Zealand of all predators by 2050.

This is a ground-breaking initiative; never before has the world seen such an ambitious conservation target. Our vast Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park, the Otawa Scenic Reserve in the Papamoa hills, and the Otanewainuku Forest are all areas that will benefit from this initiative. Tuhua (Mayor Island), our very own wildlife refuge, has seen the benefits of being predator free and is a safe haven for threatened bird species from the mainland. This island hosts healthy populations of Kereru (New Zealand wood pigeon) as well as supporting the growth in the number of the North Island brown kiwi and North island robin to name a few.

Predators have been roaming New Zealand’s forests and destroying our natural environment for decades. The Government’s predator-free plan is a comprehensive, long term approach to the problem and relies on the support of communities and organisations throughout the country. Focusing on three main species ensures that we are concentrating on a significant goal and gives clarity to the issue. Restoring our country by reducing and eradicating predators will help to bring back all sorts of native species and boost our agricultural industry.

A new company will be launched, which will match Government resources with local government, community groups, iwi and philanthropists to develop predator eradication programmes. This goal is important for our country and it is great to see that a number of organisations, big and small, are on board.

Achieving a predator free New Zealand is the next step in our conservation journey and some are saying that it is an impossible task. I agree that the project will require a massive effort from our communities, but the end result will be worth it and I believe that we can achieve it.