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.

 

Predator free far north

Ngāti Kuri have revealed a plan to protect the northern tip of New Zealand with a predator fence stretching 8.5 km from the west coats to the east coast. This will be about 20 km from the northern tip at Cape Reinga.

RNZ:  Iwi to build predator-free fence from coast-to-coast

Northland iwi Ngāti Kuri has revealed its plans to build the $1.2 million fence just south of Cape Reinga.

The fence will run from near the Te Paki sand-dunes on the west coast, to near Te Hapua on the east coast, spanning nearly 8.5 kilometres.

Map source

Ngāti Kuri trustee Sheridan Waitai said it would help protect an isolated area which was home to many endemic species, including insects and trees.

She said the fence would keep pests like possums, rats, mice and stoats out of the area.

It looks like a lot of the area has some sort of bush cover (Google Maps):

It’s a small beginning but if they succeed with this they may be able to progress down the island.

The fence protecting the Orokonui Ecosanctuary just north of Dunedin is 9 km enclosing an area of 307 hectares near the coast.

The fence protecting the Zealandia sanctuary near Wellington is 8.6 km enclosing an area of 207 hectares.

The area they aim to protect in the far north looks to be much larger than the sanctuaries.

 

Plan and money for pest eradication in Taranaki

A major project aimed at eradicating pests from Taranaki has been announced.


$11.7 million for Taranaki predator control

An ambitious plan to eradicate pests from Taranaki will get an $11.7 million funding injection from Predator Free 2050 Ltd, Conservation Minister, Eugenie Sage announced today.

Taranaki Taku Tūranga – a region-wide collaboration between Taranaki Regional Council and rural landowners, aims to eradicate introduced predators from native habitats.

The project starts near New Plymouth and will be progressively rolled out across 4,500 hectares of farmland surrounding the Taranaki/Egmont National Park.

The area will be defended from re-infestation by a ‘virtual barrier’ created by a network of intensive trapping.

“Government funding of $11.7 million invested via Predator Free 2050 Ltd into Taranaki Taku Tūranga, aims to suppress or eradicate rats, stoats and possums in the area so our native birds and other wildlife can thrive.

“This funding is being matched by local government and other funders at a ratio of more than three to one, with a total project budget of $47 million over five years.”

PF2050 Ltd is a government-owned charitable company established to support co-funding arrangements to help expand and upscale predator control operations. It aims to work towards a predator free New Zealand by 2050.

“New Zealand has a predator crisis – 82 percent of native birds are threatened with, or at risk of extinction. We must invest in a comprehensive programme of predator control initiatives, to save Aotearoa’s indigenous wildlife,” said Eugenie Sage.

“Taranaki Taku Tūranga will build on significant predator control work already being undertaken by the Taranaki Mounga Project – a large scale ecological restoration collaboration between Department of Conservation, eight Taranaki iwi, the NEXT Foundation and other sponsors, covering the 34,000 ha of the national park,” said Eugenie Sage.

In late 2017, PF2050 Ltd issued a request for expressions of interest in collaborative landscape-scale predator control projects. Forty-five groups, representing six percent of New Zealand’s land area, expressed interest.

In addition to the funding being provided by Predator Free 2050 Ltd, Budget 2018 provided an extra $81.3 million in new funding to the Department of Conservation (DOC) for landscape scale predator control as part of an extra $181.6 million in operational funding for DOC over the next four years. That funding allows DOC to plan ahead and target the pests that are devastating the habitats of New Zealand’s unique species.

More details:  Taranaki Taku Tūranga – Towards a Predator-Free Taranaki


Predator Free 2050 was set up in 2016 by the National Government when they initiated a goal of making New Zealand predator free by 2050:

Predator Free 2050 Limited is responsible for directing a significant amount of Crown investment into the Predator Free Programme, with a focus on breakthrough science and large scale predator control and eradication initiatives.

Predator Free 2050 Limited was formed in 30 November 2016 by the New Zealand Government via the Department of Conservation to realise New Zealand’s Predator Free 2050 goal.

The company invests around $5 million per year in large landscape projects and scientific research, and leverages new funding to rid New Zealand of the possums, rats and stoats which threaten its unique fauna and flora.

Its current science strategy is focussed on achieving interim goals for 2025.

Predator Free 2050 Limited works closely with other parties in the Predator Free 2050 movement, including tangata whenua, the Department of Conservation, the Predator Free New Zealand TrustNew Zealand’s Biological Heritage National Science ChallengeZero Invasive Predators LtdSanctuaries of New Zealand, regional councils and community groups.

It is good to see this continued by the new Government. It is a very ambitious plan for the country, as it is for Taranaki, which borders other areas that will leak predators into Taranaki unless they are controlled or eradicated as well.

Budget boosts DOC predator control

A pre-budget announcement of a significant funding boost for predator control will help towards the ambitious goal of making New Zealand ‘predator free’ by 2050.

In July 2016: Government sets target to make New Zealand ‘predator-free’ by 2050

The Government wants to make New Zealand predator-free by 2050, formally adopting a target to eradicate all pests that threaten New Zealand’s native birds.

Prime Minister John Key announced the goal, alongside Conservation Minister Maggie Barry, as well as a $28 million funding injection into a joint venture company to kickstart the campaign.

“Rats, possums and stoats kill 25 million of our native birds every year, and prey on other native species such as lizards and, along with the rest of our environment, we must do more to protect them,” Key said.

By 2025, the Government has set four interim goals, which include:

• Having 1 million hectares of land where pests are suppressed or removed;
• The development of a scientific breakthrough, capable of removing entirely one small mammalian predator;
• To be able demonstrate that areas of 20,000 hectares can be predator free without the use of fences like the one at at Wellington’s Zealandia sanctuary;
• And the complete removal of all introduced predators from offshore island nature reserves.

“This is the most ambitious conservation project attempted anywhere in the world, but we believe if we all work together as a country we can achieve it.”

See department of Conversation Predator Free 2050

Predator Free 2050 (PF2050) brings together central and local government, iwi, philanthropists, non-government organisations, businesses, science and research organisations, communities, land owners and individuals like you.

Reminds me I have to deal to some nuisance possums. They are lot better around here after a TBFree eradication programme over the last year.

From the Labour-Green confidence & supply agreement:

6. Safeguard our indigenous biodiversity by reducing the extinction risk for 3,000 threatened
plant and wildlife species, significantly increasing conservation funding, increasing predator
control and protecting their habitats.

a. Budget provision will be made for significantly increasing the Department of
Conservation’s funding.

From the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement:

  • Significantly increase funding for the Department of Conservation.

The Government is following through on this:


Backing Nature – funding a future for native species

Possums, rats and stoats are the big losers in Budget 2018 and our forests, birds and other wildlife the winners, Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage announced today.

“We need to invest in comprehensive predator control in order to save special wildlife like kiwi. We have a biodiversity crisis, where 82 per cent of native birds are threatened with or at risk of extinction,” says Eugenie Sage.

An extra $81.3 million in operating funds for predator control over four years is part of a major boost in conservation funding in Budget 2018. This will enable the Department of Conservation (DOC) to undertake sustained predator control over more than 1.8 million hectares – the largest area ever covered, and about the size of Northland and Auckland combined.

DOC’s previous funding enabled it to achieve possum control across 1 million hectares. The additional funding in Budget 2018 enables the greatest threats to biodiversity – rats, stoats and possums – to be continually controlled over a larger area in an integrated way.

“For the first time, predator control funding will be locked in. Budget 2018 means DOC won’t have to divert funding from other priorities or scramble to get one-off allocations from Government in order to do this essential work,” says Eugenie Sage.

“Both the Coalition Agreement and the Confidence and Supply Agreement recognise the need to increase conservation funding. Budget 2018 delivers on those commitments.

“After years of neglect and piecemeal funding, Budget 2018 is backing nature. DOC can now plan ahead with secure funding to target the predators that are devastating New Zealand’s unique species.”

Eugenie Sage made the announcement at Otari-Wilton’s Bush in Wellington, an example of thriving native forest that we will have more of as a result of this initiative.

“DOC’s pest control improves forest health and the breeding success of threatened species like kākā, kea, rock wren, whio/blue duck and bats,” says Eugenie Sage.

“When 4,000 of our native plants and animals are threatened or at risk of extinction, every single conservation dollar counts. This injection of $81.3 million is only the start of this Government’s investment in nature,” Eugenie Sage said.

More ‘predator free’ responses

NZH: Conservation Minister Maggie Barry on the Government’s predator free policy

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry spoke to The Country’s Jamie Mackay today about the devastation caused by introduced predators such as possums, stoats and rats and how New Zealand has no obligation to see these animals as part of our ecosystem.

New Zealand First’s Richard Prosser claims that the move has the potential to be the worst unintentional ecological blunder of modern times.

Audio

NZH: Anti-1080 groups: Plan is ‘ludicrous’

Ban 1080 Party president Bill Wallace, of Nelson, dismissed it as a pipe dream.

“But it’s justification for another 34 years of spreading 1080 in ever-greater quantities,” Wallace said.

He doubted private companies would want to be associated with a poisoning programme in which animals died “slow and tortured deaths”.

“This is just ludicrous,” 1080 activist Laurie Collins, of Buller, said. “They know they haven’t got a hope in hell.”

Farmers Against Ten Eighty spokeswoman Mary Molloy, of Hari Hari…

… said the ideal was laudable but not feasible.

West Coast Regional Council chairman Andrew Robb…

…welcomed the announcement.

He said it would mean a lot more aerial jobs on the Coast, with follow-up ground work, which would also create some employment opportunities.

In terms of the councils putting in $2 for every $1 of private money, he noted a lot of the work would be on Government land.

Federated Farmers spokesman for pest management Chris Allen…

…said it fully supported the target, although noting it would take billions of dollars to achieve eradication using current technologies.

“Federated Farmers want an assurance that the money will be made available to investigate new strategies and technologies,” Allen said.

More from Prosser…

New Zealand First said it had the potential to derail into the worst unintentional ecological blunder of modern times.

The party’s primary industries and outdoor recreation spokesman Richard Prosser said birds and lizards had coexisted alongside ferrets and stoats for more than 130 years, cats for 200 years, and rats for more than 800.

As much as one third of native bird life has been lost. Many bird species are now endangered, as are tuatara and other lizards.

“The rat is the preferred food of the stoat, which only switches to preying on birds when rat populations are depleted,” Prosser said.

The intention of eliminating rats was so unrealistic as to be “bordering on the irrational”.

Green Party list MP Kevin Hague…

…said the $28m the Government was initially investing was “a drop in the bucket”.

To make Stewart Island predator free would cost up to $25m alone. In addition, DOC’s funding had been reduced by some $56m a year on the last Labour government budget, he said.

NZH Editorial: Predator purge best hope for precious fauna

The ambitious public-private project carries risks, and the financial commitment is a long way shy of the costs estimated by the Auckland study. Reaching the target rests partly on technology which does not yet exist, though Conservation Minister Maggie Barry believes that a “scientific breakthrough” will emerge to eradicate at least one small mammalian predator from New Zealand by 2025, less than a decade away.

Destructive introduced mammals have been in New Zealand for centuries. Rats arrived as long ago as 700 years, and other unwelcome invasive species followed. As much as one third of native bird life has been lost. Kiwi are expected to vanish from the mainland within 50 years unless their decline is arrested.

For decades now, tens of millions of dollars have been invested in pest control programmes, yet the survival of many remaining species is uncertain and the presence of predators is still entrenched. The goal of wiping them out, even with more funding and the outlines of a co-ordinated plan, will be extremely hard to achieve. To keep what we’ve got, there is really no other option.

Press editorial: Predator-free NZ a worthy goal but will the Government’s scheme fly?

Thirty-four years is a long time. In 2050, if the trap slams shut on the last remaining stoat or rat in New Zealand, we can judge as an incredible success the pest-control strategy just announced by John Key’s National Government.

Pragmatically, though, that target is many, many years away. How many members of the Government will still be in Parliament then? And the $28 million being put by the Government into the scheme is a very small amount, roughly the same that was spent on the failed effort to change the flag.

The idea deserves support, not least because finally the Government has shown an interest in protecting, and improving, our environment.

Commendably, the Government has set some interim goals to achieve by 2025, including having 1 million hectares where pests are suppressed or removed, and a scientific breakthrough capable of eradicating one small mammal predator. Such goals should help the strategy proceed on to and down the right track.

There have been successful public-private partnerships in the conservation sector. But do we really need a Crown entity to manage the process? Why not give the money instead to the beleaguered Department of Conservation, which has had millions of dollars cut out of its budgets for several years, to start the ball rolling?

 

Reactions to predator free target

Some reactions to Government sets target to make New Zealand ‘predator-free’ by 2050

@rodemmerson:

Green Party conservation spokesman Kevin Hague…

…said welcomed the target, but said research showed it would cost $9b to make New Zealand predator-free. 

“The Government seems happy to once again put out the begging bowl to the private sector to fund what should be taken care of by the Government.

“We have real concerns over what will happen to this predator-free dream if the Government can’t attract private funding, or if that private funding dries up.”

The Greens are usually quick off the mark on policy issues but no media releases from them yet and nothing on their Facebook or Twitter.

ACT Leader David Seymour…

…has welcomed the announcement and said it echoed his own policy to sell off Landcorp and place the money it gains into a trust, so community groups and private enterprises can apply to operate inland wildlife sanctuaries.

“We’re interested in seeing how the Prime Minister plans to skip inland islands and eradicate pests from the nation wholesale.  It’s a laudable and ambitious goal, we look forward to seeing the detail.

A lot will depend on the detail.

Labour…

…is questioning the Government’s level of commitment. 

It’s far to soon to seriously question commitment. The target has only just been announced.

Predator Free New Zealand is a laudable idea but the Government has not committed any real money into killing New Zealand’s pests, says Labour’s Conservation spokesperson Nanaia Mahuta.

“The only promise is that the Government will ‘look’ to contribute one dollar for every two dollars from councils and the private sector.

“This lack of long term funding to kill our millions of pests has to be considered alongside years of funding cuts that have blunted the work of the Department of Conservation.”

Whether it’s feasible to become anywhere near predator free is being questioned.

While some think that it really is possible others have serious doubts.

But even managing to reduce rat, stoat and possum numbers by 50%, 0r 75%, would be a significant achievement – as  long as the reduced numbers were maintained.

Without continuous containment the numbers would increase again, as they have done when the predators were first introduced or introduced themselves.

Government details: Predator free by 2050

Predator free by 2050

The Government has announced what appears to be an extremely ambitious project – to eliminate all rats, stoats and possums from New Zealand by 2050.

NZ Herald summarises in‘Predator free’ by 2050?

• 25 million native birds are killed by pests a year
• $3.3 billion cost to the economy and primary sector a year
• $28 million new company to identify large pest control programmes and attract private investment

A media release from John Key:

New Zealand to be Predator Free by 2050

Prime Minister John Key has today announced the Government has adopted the goal of New Zealand becoming Predator Free by 2050.

“While once the greatest threat to our native wildlife was poaching and deforestation it is now introduced predators,” Mr Key says.

“Rats, possums and stoats kill 25 million of our native birds every year, and prey on other native species such as lizards and, along with the rest of our environment, we must do more to protect them.”

Mr Key says these introduced pests also threaten our economy and primary sector, with their total economic cost estimated at around $3.3 billion a year.

“That’s why we have adopted this goal. Our ambition is that by 2050 every single part of New Zealand will be completely free of rats, stoats and possums.

“This is the most ambitious conservation project attempted anywhere in the world, but we believe if we all work together as a country we can achieve it.”

The Government will lead the effort, by investing an initial $28 million in a new joint venture company called Predator Free New Zealand Limited to drive the programme alongside the private sector.

This funding is on top of the $60 to $80 million already invested in pest control by the government every year and the millions more contributed by local government and the private sector.

Predator Free New Zealand Limited will be responsible for identifying large, high value predator control projects and attracting co-investors to boost their scale and success.

The Government will look to provide funding on a one for two basis – that is for every $2 that local councils and the private sector put in, the Government will contribute another dollar.

“This ambitious project is the latest step in the National-led Government’s commitment to protecting our environment.

“We are committed to its sustainable management and our track record speaks for itself.

“This includes the decision to establish the world’s largest fully protected ocean sanctuary in the Kermadecs, better protection in our territorial sea and our efforts to improve the quality of our fresh waterways.

“We know the goal we have announced today is ambitious but we are ambitious for New Zealand.

“And we know we can do it because we have shown time and again what can be achieved when New Zealanders come together with the ambition, willpower and wherewithal to make things happen.”