Predator free project in the Mackenzie Country

When the National Government proposed a goal in 2016 of a predator free country by 2050 – see Predator free by 2050 – it raised both doubt (that it could be achieved), and praise.

Since then a number of projects have been announced as steps towards this, including some around Dunedin (one affects me directly, which I support). See also Predator free far north,and Twelve more Kiwibank Predator Free Communities announced…

Yesterday Green MP and Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage announced the biggest predator free area so far: Inspirational predator free Mackenzie project announced

A large predator free area featuring some of the South Island’s most majestic landscapes is the long-term vision of a multi-million-dollar predator control project announced by the Minister of Conservation, Eugenie Sage today.

“Encompassing 310,000 hectares between the snowy mountain lands of Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, glacier fed lakes and the iconic drylands of the upper Mackenzie Basin, the Te Manahuna Aoraki ‘mainland island’ is inspirational,” Eugenie Sage said.

“I am pleased to launch this fantastic project. Te Manahuna Aoraki will help to preserve and protect the habitats of 23 threatened species including wrybill/ngutuparore, robust grasshoppers, kea, and the world’s rarest wading bird, the kakī/black stilt.

The Department of Conservation (DOC), NEXT Foundation, Te Rūnanga o Arowhenua, Te Rūnanga o Waihao and Te Rūnanga o Moeraki are the project’s founding partners. They are joined by high country landholders, and investors Aotearoa Foundation, Jasmine Social Investments, Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC) and Predator Free 2050 Ltd.

“A $4.5 million investment will fund an initial three-year phase to extend protection for threatened species and to test predator and pest control techniques for the rest of the 20-year project.

“The project will use natural barriers including 3,000 metre high mountain peaks, ridgelines and waterways to prevent or reduce re-invasion of predators like rats, possums and stoats – keeping them away from our precious threatened species.

“Building on existing partnerships with Ngaī Tahu, landholders, and local councils this nationally significant biodiversity project builds on decades of DOC’s biodiversity work and the help of many volunteers.

“Supporting this work is the opening of the new captive breeding facilities for kakī/black stilt at Twizel. Funded by Global Wildlife Conservation, the new hatchery and aviary will play an important role in boosting the population of this cherished but threatened bird.

“For the kakī population to thrive, it needs its braided river habitat to be healthy and riverbeds to be clear of introduced weeds and protected from introduced predators. Te Manahuna Aoraki will go a long way to ensuring threatened species calling the Mackenzie Basin home are protected.

“DOC biodiversity ranger, Scott Theobald played an important role in the Te Manahuna Aoraki restoration project before he was tragically killed in a recent helicopter crash in Wanaka along with his colleague Paul Hondelink and their pilot Nick Wallis.

“All three men were committed to conservation and pioneers in their fields.  Scott’s knowledge and advice regarding control of black-backed gulls and rabbits, and his expertise in the construction of the robust grasshopper protection fence will be remembered always as Te Manahuna Aoraki is brought to life,” Eugenie Sage said.

It’s great to see this. Time will tell whether these are unattainable ideals or not, but significantly reducing predators (and keeping numbers down) will make a big difference to the country.

In the area I live they have had a big campaign over the last couple if years to reduce possum numbers after a bovine TB outbreak on several farms. This has made a big difference to plants and gardens and the area of native bush on my property and in the adjoining hills.  It hasn’t eliminated the problem (a possum or possums have been making a mess of rose plants recently) but both plant life and bird life have improved noticeably.

The Mackenzie project and other predator free zones are a beginning. Hopefully they will be largely successful, they will grow, and different areas will eventually merge.


Leave a comment


  1. robertguyton

     /  3rd November 2018

    I initially thought the nation-wide project was doomed to fail, given the nature (and breeding capabilities) of particularly, rats, but now I’m not so sure it’s no doable. At least, a significant measure of control is possible, however it’s value, in the long term still concerns me. Rats can repopulate spaces very effectively and quickly. I’m thinking Canute.

    • But even if numbers can be significantly reduced and kept down it could make a big difference.

      • Ray

         /  3rd November 2018

        They have had some big programs on the possums around here that have been very effective, you just don’t see any on the roads now.
        Interesting that DOC according to Minister Sage, control Black Backed gulls.
        Greens picking winners?
        That will end well!

      • robertguyton

         /  3rd November 2018


        • Ray

           /  3rd November 2018

          Good point robert, the Greens really do look they are only temporarily in Government, what with voting for more armaments willy-billy meanwhile protesting those same Armament companies daring to come to Conference here.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  3rd November 2018

            Robert asked for that one, Ray

            If the busted branches on my big tree are a sign, possums are still around here. I saw one on the road not long ago, and I have seen them lolloping across the road from my place. I know that they go into the tree, I have seen them in it.

  2. Gezza

     /  3rd November 2018

    This item on 1ewes tonite was very concerning. It seems some extremist environmentalists are really dangerous criminals. Posting it here because it’s kind of related.


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