Towards Predator-Free Taranaki has received $2.5 million to more than double the size of its possum eradication zone.
Its Zero Possum project was launched in 2018 and covered 4,500ha from Pukeiti to the coast, bordered by the Oakura River and Timaru Stream. The 2,000ha of farmland within this zone has not had a resident possum population for more than 18 months, while just a handful of possums remain in the bush.
It’s this success that has seen Predator Free 2050 Limited invest a further $2.5 million to extend the Zero Possum area to the Hangatahua (Stony) River – the next defendable boundary. That will bring about 5,000ha and 120 extra farms into scope, including Ōkato township.
Up to 13 full time equivalent staff and contractors will be hired as a result.
Towards Predator-Free Taranaki is a Taranaki Regional Council-led programme. The Zero Possum project is a collaborative effort with Taranaki Mounga Project, which carries out predator control on Taranaki Maunga itself.
Council Environment Services Manager Steve Ellis says the funding is exciting for the region and coastal Taranaki in particular.
“We are incredibly grateful to Predator Free 2050 Limited for this vote of confidence. We know this project is making a real difference and this will allow us to build on that momentum and see the community reap even greater benefits.”
Removing possums and other introduced predators will help protect and restore Taranaki’s native birds, lizards, plants and other species and bring massive benefits to the environment.
The project expansion is a win-win for landowners in the area. Currently they have to carry out possum control on their properties themselves. During the project that work will done by the Towards Predator-Free Taranaki team and contractors, at no cost.
Mr Ellis says community involvement has been crucial to the success of the wider Towards Predator-Free Taranaki programme and the Zero Possum project.
“Over the past four years we have seen Kaitake and Oākura really get behind the vision. People are reporting possum sightings and those in the township are trapping in their backyards. As a result, they are seeing the birdlife returning to their gardens and farms. Who knows, in the future they may even see kiwi spilling out from the ranges onto their paddocks!”
The team plans to tweak its approach for the expansion, using lessons learned over the past four years.
Possum detector dogs will be deployed first in smaller areas of bush so traps and toxins can be better targeted. Not only will this be more efficient but it should result in less toxin use, Mr Ellis says.
“We are constantly adapting and sharing our learnings with other predator control projects around New Zealand. Eradication on a landscape like this is a huge task, but with our community’s help we’re well on the way to achieving it.”
Newly appointed Predator Free 2050 Limited Chair, Denise Church, says she has been impressed to learn of the adaptability and agility the Taranaki team has shown over the past five years.
“I have no doubt this funding will see positive results and further learnings, this together with the knowledge gained by other projects we fund, will play a pivotal role to informing the design of the national implementation plan.
“It’s also great to see the importance Taranaki Regional Council staff have placed on working alongside landowners and the community to ensure the success of the project. There is no one size fits all approach to making Aotearoa predator free, it will take innovation, cutting edge technology, collaboration and determination, of which the Towards Predator-Free Taranaki team has shown they have in abundance.”
Report a Possum!
If you see or hear a possum in the Zero Possum area, please report it as soon as possible at www.trc.govt.nz/possum or call 0800 736 222. Please include as exact a location as you can.