Predator Free 2050: Taranaki leading the way

Taranaki is well ahead of the game as the country works towards the ambitious goal of becoming predator free by 2050, says the Taranaki Regional Council.

Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage this week launched a national Predator Free 2050 Strategy and 5-Year Action Plan, building on the Predator Free 2050 goal announced by the Government in 2016.

The Council says its ground-breaking Towards Predator-Free Taranaki project is well-established and is leading the way with its efforts to restore native bush and wildlife by removing predators from urban, rural and conservation land.

Launched in May 2018, Towards Predator-Free Taranaki was the first large-scale project in New Zealand with the long-term goal of removing introduced predators from a region. It works closely with rural and urban residents, iwi, community organisations and schools, using innovative tools and methods to eradicate possums, rats and mustelids (stoats, ferrets and weasels) from different landscapes.

Council Director-Operations Stephen Hall says there are now around 13,000 traps throughout the region, the majority maintained by private landowners and volunteers. Early indications are they are making a real difference, he says.

There has been an increase in sightings of native birds and wildlife in some areas, including tūī, kererū, grey faced petrel and the goldstripe gecko. Kiwi have returned to Pukeiti after 20 years, where there have also been sightings of the North Island Robin – the first time in 112 years.

An exciting part of the project is the Restore Kaitake zero possum trial, a joint effort with Taranaki Mounga and the local community, aiming to completely eradicate possums across 4,500 hectares of urban, rural and conservation land.

Mr Hall says the national strategy recognises the importance of educating young people, so they carry a passion for their environment into adulthood.

“That’s always been the philosophy of Towards Predator-Free Taranaki. We now work with about 60 schools, with students distributing rat traps, checking traps in public parks and helping monitor biodiversity and predators.”

The strategy also stresses that achieving the 2050 target will only happen through a collective effort.

“From day one Towards Predator-Free Taranaki has been about our communities working together towards a common goal. Protecting our precious native wildlife and plants will enrich all of our lives, as well as supporting our tourism and primary industries.

“We all have a lot of work left to do, but we are confident the people of Taranaki are up for the challenge.”