$15m predator control plan launch in Dunedin

A $4.33 million Government grant has launched a ''hugely ambitious'' five-year project to kill populations of predators over 31,000ha of Dunedin land.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage will announce the funding and the start of the $15 million Predator Free Dunedin project in the city this morning.

Dunedin is the first South Island area to be funded by Government-owned Predator Free 2050 Ltd following announcements for Taranaki, Hawke's Bay, Wellington and Waiheke Island.

The project's aims in the next five years are to eradicate possums from the 9000ha Otago Peninsula and decimate rat, stoat, possum, ferret and weasel populations in 12,500ha of land surrounding the Orokonui Ecosanctuary between Aramoana, Waitati and Northeast Valley.

 

Predator Free Dunedin project manager Rhys Millar (left), Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage and Predator Free 2050 science strategy project manager Dan Thompkins place traps at Prospect Park in North Dunedin yesterday. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Predator Free Dunedin project manager Rhys Millar (left), Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage and Predator Free 2050 science strategy project manager Dan Thompkins place traps at Prospect Park in North Dunedin yesterday. Photo: Peter McIntosh

The gaps between these two areas will be managed by the initiation of predator control methods and strategies in backyards and reserves in suburban Dunedin.

Predator Free Dunedin project manager Rhys Millar said the project was ''mightily ambitious''.

''We believe it's achievable.''

The Government money would be spend on traps and the employment of contractors and co-ordinators.

In the next five years the project also hoped to engage urban residents, eventually getting them involved in the processes for rat control.

Seeing kaka, hoiho (yellow-eyed penguins) and South Island robins dispersing throughout Dunedin would be a sign of success, he said.

Ms Sage said the project would build on Dunedin's conservation history.

''Dunedin has long had the reputation of being the wildlife capital and this will increase that. It's very ambitious.''

The Government was committed to investing in conservation because nature was at the heart the country's success.

''We have a predator crisis here in Aotearoa with 4000 species threatened.''

There was increasing support for the Predator Free 2050 project, and thousands of New Zealanders were putting traps in their backyards.

Predator Free 2050 science strategy project manager Dan Thompkins said the overall project was a reaction to the realisation despite all the conservation efforts in New Zealand the country was still losing its birds.

''We really need a step up in what we do.''

Dunedin was chosen for funding because it already had established groups doing great work and had ''unique geography'' with urban areas, dense bush and the peninsula.

Kaka could be seen in the Octagon within a decade, he said.

Much past conservation work targeted the back-country, but the Government wanted to bring efforts to urban areas.

Other funders include the Otago Regional Council, which has pledged $1.5 million through its Regional Pest Management Plan, and the Dunedin City Council, which is contributing $850,000 in funds and using another $1 million to use predator management funding towards Predator Free Dunedin goals.

Ospri is helping with its $3million possum-eradication programme and other funding comes from Maanaki Whenua, the University of Otago, Landscape Connections Trust and the Otago Peninsula Biodiversity Trust.

Predator Free Dunedin was short $440,000 for the overall project in its past two years.

jono.edwards@odt.co.nz

 

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