The Government has revealed what it calls the most ambitious conservation project in the world - exterminating all rats, stoats and possums in New Zealand before 2050.
These predators are now costing New Zealand's economy and primary sector $3.3 billion a year, Prime Minister John Key said this afternoon.
In response, the Government will set up a new joint venture company, Predator Free New Zealand Limited, at a cost of $28 million over four years, to identify large-scale pest eradication projects and attract private investment to boost their reach.
For every $2 put towards pest control projects by councils and the private sector, the Government will contribute another $1.
The ultimate goal is to have every part of New Zealand free of rats, stoats and possums by 2050.
Announcing the initiative in Wellington today, Key said New Zealand led the world on many environmental indicators, but could still improve on biodiversity.
"While there was once a time when the greatest threat was deforestation and poaching, today it is introduced predators."
Rats, stoats and possums killed an estimated 25 million native birds a year.
"Their impact cannot be overstated," Key said.
"This is the most ambitious project attempted anywhere in the world, but we believe if we all work together as a country we can achieve it.
"It will require an extraordinary effort."
He referred to the late Sir Paul Callaghan's comment that eradicating pests was New Zealand's "Apollo Project".
The new funding came on top of $60 to $80 million invested in pest control annually and is separate from the $20 million funding boost for the Battle for Our Birds programme confirmed in the Budget.
Ministers also set a series of medium-term goals, including four targets to be achieved by 2025:
• Remove pests from an additional 1 million hectares of land.
• Develop a scientific breakthrough capable of completely eliminating one small mammalian predator.
• Show that areas of more than 20,000 hectares can be predator-free without using fences.
• Completely remove all introduced predators from offshore island reserves.
Conservation Minister Maggie Barry said the goals were ambitious, but could be met if all sectors worked together.