Community drives pest eradication programme
The sound of rare native birds will one day return to the Hokonui hills thanks to a partnership between iwi, local government, businesses and community groups forming the Haumari/Croydon Bush restoration project.
Haumuri, or Croydon Bush as it's also known, was once home to many indigenous species. Unfortunately, like many areas of native bush throughout the country, predators such as possums and rats, have had a profound impact.
Many native bird species have been lost and vegetation health has suffered. However, there are bold plans to restore the habitats and return taonga and lost species to the area in a bid to achieve the vision of Predator Free 2050.
The Hokonui Rūnanga is leading the community-based project. While it is still relatively young, it has received strong community support.
The Gore District Council has bought and manages 10 specialist traps, while businesses such as New Vale Coal and the Alliance Group have donated time and goods to the project.
Kaiārihi Taiao (Environmental Lead) Kaupapa Taiao Riki Parata said the sustainability and success of the project rest in the community’s hands.
“There has been real community buy-in through businesses and groups such as the Hokonui Tramping Club and Hokonui Mountain Bike Group.
“However, we are still looking for more volunteers and sponsors from the community."
Volunteer activities could include anything from trap checking and trap box building to managing data, tree planting, fundraising, and more.
Initial pest control has been on possums, with mustelid control in some areas. Activities will expand in later stages to include species such as rats, Parata said.
A monitoring programme for native flora and fauna will be developed and employed throughout the project to ensure goals are met. This monitoring will also help to identify suitable sites for restoration work.
Gore District Parks Manager Keith McRobie said the Council welcomed the chance to partner with the Runanga on this project.
“Dolamore Park’s many walks are popular with visitors and locals. We fully support any project that aims to restore and protect this significant area of indigenous bush.”
The AT220 traps are New Zealand’s only automatic, self-resetting trap for possums and rats. The bait and trap’s battery last for about six months, and it is set to shut down during the day to avoid birdlife.
“One of the features of these traps is an app you can download to your phone that shows the number of times it has been triggered and the number of large animals caught,” McRobie said.
Not surprisingly, there is more to this project than restoring the environment. It also provides a pathway for young people transitioning from school to employment.
Through a Jobs for Nature project Toitū Te Whenua Land Information New Zealand, the Rūnanga has been able to provide training for young people who had disengaged from mainstream education.
“We’ve been training young people in pest control, freshwater environmental management and nursery management,” Parata said.
It had been rewarding to see the trainees develop valuable skills and grow in confidence -“it’s about preparing them for future opportunities”.