Peninsula pests: the end is nigh

Otago Peninsula Biodiversity Group trustee David Chalmers is part of a trapping project that has...
Otago Peninsula Biodiversity Group trustee David Chalmers is part of a trapping project that has eradicated about 8800 possums from the peninsula since 2009. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
A possum-free Otago Peninsula by 2018 is the goal and with 2300 of the pests culled this year and an extra $111,000 of funding, it seems the unwelcome Australian intruder's end is nigh.

The Otago Peninsula Biodiversity Group has a goal of being pest-free on the peninsula by 2050 and that means eradicating possums as well as other introduced vermin.

At this point, the group's major focus was on possum eradication and its winter season had come to a close.

Group project manager Cathy Rufaut said all native species were under threat from introduced possums on the peninsula, including native bush, yellow-eyed penguins, albatrosses and jewelled geckos.

''Winter time ... [is] when possums are at their easiest to catch because natural food supplies are low.

''By the end of 2018, to see or hear a possum anywhere on the peninsula will be an extremely rare event.

''We're working towards a trap catch of 1% or less across all 9500ha.''

Since 2009, 8800 possums have been killed.

Funding provided by the Department of Conservation's Community Conservation Partnership Fund will allow the group to employ an operations manager.

''The money is a great result for us. This means the [pest] control work will not be diluted so much,'' Ms Rufaut said.

Group trustee David Chalmers said the trust was ''pretty happy'' with the number of possums culled this year.

''We know there are still some hotspots [and] there is more work to be done.''

Mr Chalmers said the number of possums reduced closer to Taiaroa Head.

Eradication was done by contractors and about 50 volunteers.

The group was working on a strategy to stop possums coming on to the peninsula from Dunedin city.

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