$6m project to fight stoats and ferrets

A new $6 million environmental restoration project will use a wireless network to trap stoats and ferrets in Hawke's Bay.

As part of the system, farmers are sent texts to alert them to traps being sprung on the pests.

The Cape to City project, launched officially at the Napier War Memorial Conference Centre last night, will use low-cost predator control across 26,000ha of farmland between Waimarama and Havelock North.

It requires an investment more than $6 million over five years from Cape to City, sister-project Poutiri Ao o Tane, the Hawke's Bay Regional Council, the Department of Conservation, Landcare Research, Cape Sanctuary and Aotearoa Foundation, as well as private business. Cape to City project manager Campbell Leckie said he was excited to launch the project, which had a primary focus on eradicating predators such as stoats, ferrets, and feral cats.

The programme was modelled on the successes of Poutiri Ao o Tane, based near Tutira, which has been running for four years, as well as the regional council's Possum Control Area Programme.

He hoped to reduce the cost of pest control in Hawke's Bay by 50-80 per cent, using a unique wireless networking of traps.

In the new system, when pests are caught, a signal will be triggered which alerts pest-control operators via text message.

"If you say to a farmer, there are 100 traps on your farm and you need to go around them each month to clear and check them - that's a significant commitment for a farmer who has their own business to run.

"But if you have 100 traps with long-life lures, such as scent-impregnated oil, that are linked wirelessly, this sends a text message as to which of the three-five traps over that month that have gone off where and when, then that's a much more manageable commitment."

He said there was already a groundswell of support among farmers who had been approached to sign up for the project. New Zealand Federated Farmers immediate past-president Bruce Wills believed it was going to be a "game changer" for farmers.

The Cape to City project is being championed by Cape Sanctuary owner Andy Lowe, with project ambassador Ruud Kleinpaste aka "The Bugman".

"It shows we are really serious about doing something about the loss of our biodiversity," said Mr Kleinpaste.

- By Harrison Christian, Hawke's Bay Today 

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