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Predator Free Rakiura Stewart Island

Written By: - Date published: 11:24 am, July 9th, 2022 - 39 comments
Categories: Conservation, Environment, nature, uncategorized - Tags:

If anyone’s keen on helping in a globally noteworthy epic conservation project, try the whole of Stewart Island.

Rakiura/Stewart Island looking northeast across Mason Bay. (Source: Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu)

There’s plenty of pest eradication effort going on there already if you go through the maps and the specific island initiatives, but yesterday it was announced that this time they are going, in the words of Matt Damon, to science the shit out of it.

It’s several million matched dollar for dollar. It’s not the full capital that eradication is going to require. The Auckland Islands for example are going to need millions in capital and has needed private donations to keep that project pushing along.

The Predator Free Aotearoa programme was started under the Key government but it was in 2020 that the Labour government gave it the push with $76m of capital and landscape-scale projects.

There are three main public funding streams including Jobs for Nature, Provincial Growth Fund, and Vote Conservation – with Westland being the testbed for the boldest and biggest of the mainland moves.

They will of course take your money if you give it to them, and then go do good killing things that eat our native animals.

It is the Stewart Island project at 180,000 hectares it would be the largest island-based predator eradication attempt ever made, anywhere beyond the South Georgia rat project.

The stronger, richer forest that will result will absorb far more carbon than pines let alone infested forest.

If anyone ever gets tired of politics on a national level, join up to Forest and Bird and dedicate a week of your holidays to the many efforts on Rakiura. In ten years’ time the birdsong will be as strong as that on Tiritiri (220 hectares), Maungatautiri (3,300 hectares), Auckland’s Ark in the Park (2,300 hectares), Brook in Nelson (690 hectares), or South Westland (100,000 hectares).

It’s one of the most rewarding things you will do in your life.

39 comments on “Predator Free Rakiura Stewart Island ”

  1. Robert Guyton 1

    Do they mention white-tailed deer?

    Hunters on the island are loathe to have them included in the eradication project.

    Then there are the cats. From top to bottom. Cat's are difficult to eradicate.

    Just a couple of the challenges faced.

    • KJT 1.1

      I can understand why.

      Best venison I've ever tasted.

      However they are bush wreckers!

    • Belladonna 1.2

      Given that Moa are no more – you need to have some form of mid-size browser in an ecosystem – deer (well thinned out) could fill that role.

      Much more important to get rid of pigs, rats, possums, mice, stoats, ferrets and feral dogs and cats.

      • barry 1.2.1

        Except the deer are never well enough thinned out, and they destroy the baby trees so that when there is a storm and the big trees fall over the gap doesn't get replaced.

        Keeping the deer (for hunting and eating) reduces the options for poisoning for other mammalian species. It is more cost effective to aim for the lot, rather than being selective.

        On Stewart island I have seen kiwi in the wild, but I have seen a lot more deer, rats, cats etc.

        In places elsewhere where pest control has removed the deer and other browsers, the bush is quite healthy. I think it doesn't miss them.

  2. Janet 2

    Someone did the mahi years ago and developed virtually all that was needed for possums , rodents, mustelids and cats, but it has been steadfastly ignored. It does not have to cost billions to reach a predator free Stewart Island BUT there are businesses and scientists out there who do not want their expensive plans, including developing Gene Editing of pest populations, disrupted by something simple, economic and effective.

    Results of a recent 1 year pest control trial on a 56 hectares, Northland hill country property, which had been under constant pest control for the last 20 years. The day the trial started monitors had indicated "no presence” over the property for three days in a row. A total of 327 possums and 530 rats were caught over this year of trailing. These pests were pure re-invasion from neighbouring properties.

    PEST CONTROL DATA FROM 1 YR TRIAL WORKING WITH ENVIROMATE100TMS AND SA3 TRAPS ON STEEP NORTHLAND HILL COUNTRY – 30 % GRASSLAND , 70% FORESTED – NATIVE AND EXOTIC FAUNA IN THE GULLIES

    Hectares 56

    Total Pests caught 857

    Pests caught per Hectares 15.3

    Equipment:

    43 enviroMate100TM (used as an automatic lure dispenser in this trial)

    43, SA3 traps

    Pests caught per trap 19.93

    Total Value of equipment: with a 5 year life expectancy – $7100 (or $1240 per yr.)

    Equipment Cost per pest caught

    $ 1.65 (Spread over 5 yr. cost per pest caught)

    Hours worked:

    12 hrs once a fortnight ( 312 hrs for the year)

    Commercial Value of manhours @ $65.00 or $23.66 per pest

    Labourer’s wages @ $35.00 or $12.74 per pest.

    Total Material Costs – lure $ 111.80

    Cost per pest caught 13 cents

    Fur value recovered $1308.00

    Meat value recovered $1635.00

    Now try and find out how much other systems are costing the New Zealand ratepayer per pest. You will find you will not get a comprehensive answer to that, not even the full cost of a 1080 aerial operation per hectare can be obtained.

    • Tricledrown 2.1

      excellent post Janet good project getting enough people to do this type of work on a mass scale is the problem.

      • Janet 2.1.1

        While the NZ tax payer is expansively funding “ Jobs for Nature” trainees there are many self employed, fully equipped, very experienced and proven pest control professionals out there now who cannot find regular work and the work they do undertake is often subjected to an unreliable and unfair monitoring system which ensures that many are seriously underpaid, despite a good job done?

        Why are longstanding pest control operators being surreptitiously pushed away from their traditional modes of operation? Why has it now been made impossible since 2017 for the individual self-employed pest controller to tender for and gain blocks of land to pest control? Why have the size of the blocks up for tender been increased beyond a size that one man can manage and why is there a “must have 1080 capability “ clause inserted into the script of all tenders now?

        Why are the usual basic blocks no longer listed on GETS – which was free to view and submit a tender on ? The other site, Tenderlink, requires significant form filling and an annual fee of $3000 to use !

        Why has ongoing pest control on DOC land become so erratically applied and when applied, well overdue, so already significant forest damage is apparent? If it has been because the DOC has been underfunded then why has a bounty system of reward for pests killed not been re- visited?

        Why have pest controllers never been funded to take pests elimination down to zero ?

        The men are there, but their work opportunity has been slowly and deliberately removed. Please ask why ?

    • weka 2.2

      what did the native species monitoring show?

      I also think that NZ could be using ground trapping far more than we are, and reserving 1080 for the difficult areas. Not sure how much of Stewart Island would be suitable for ground trapping.

      • Janet 2.2.1

        The purpose of the one year trial was to test the PFLtd2050 target of ZERO pests, using the enviroMate100TM and SA200 traps, so no bird studies were undertaken. Anyway the property had been under pest suppression for the previous 20 yrs. Identifying the high rate of re-invasion was the outcome.

        The Northland Regional Council recently stated that any pests within a farm are the property owners responsibility.

        “There is not a lot that the Council can do if your neighbours are not willing to co-operate. The Good Neighbour Rule in the NPMP cannot be applied and enforced for such wild fauna in any practicable way”

        If all landowners were held accountable for their pests, as thus suggested, I wonder why the capture numbers did not decrease. Incredibly by the end of the years trial an average of 15.3 pests were caught per hectare despite starting at a time of zero population. The pests caught were in fact re-invading pests, which never stopped.

  3. Stuart Munro 3

    Poisoning rats completely out of any significant area is a fantasy – ask the folk who cleared Kapiti.

    The ongoing poisoning required to support the pretense of being predator free amounts to an indefinitely sustained indiscriminate poisoning program. Can't get behind that – that would be ecologically and fiscally irresponsible.

    I'm ashamed of all the frauds that do.

    • Pingao 3.1

      Kapiti Island has done 25 years or so since they eradicated rats on the island. There is on going monitoring of course. I have a link but can't post from my mobile.

    • Belladonna 3.2

      What do you think should happen then?

      If you claim that rat eradication (even on islands) is a chimera. What solution for pest elimination (or even minimization) do you propose?

      NB: DoC don't agree with you over Kapiti – they claim it's rat-free

      https://blog.doc.govt.nz/2022/02/10/how-the-kapiti-island-rat-eradication-almost-didnt-happen/

      • Stuart Munro 3.2.1

        Targeted rather than broadcast use of poison if they must – so airdrop bait stations not bare bait – this significantly reduces collateral kills.

        That said, given the rats ability to rapidly regenerate population from remnants, and the way they develop bait avoidance, eradication strategies need to be considered critically. With Kapiti, eradication required repeated mopping up by ground teams – if they are not part of the plan, predator free will never happen. Stewart Island is a vast area – ground teams to complete eradication there constitutes an Herculean task. Our entire armed forces likely would not suffice.

        Our conservation estate can find better uses for funding than quixotic but doomed gestures. That Key initiated the policy ought to tell people something – Key never gave a deleted expletive about conservation.

        Reaforesting kina barrens would be cheaper and more productive.

        • Belladonna 3.2.1.1

          Targeted kills simply creates a vacuum for the predators in the non-targeted areas to move in.
          Setting a hard boundary, and going for total eradication within it, seems to be the most effective solution (i.e. it's worked on islands, including Kapiti as well as the smaller Auckland harbour islands – and in Zealandia).

          I agree that it may be a multi-year project. And I suspect that there may be setbacks along the way.

          But not in favour of an approach which basically says – give up. Keep native populations in zoos, because they're doomed in the wild.

          What do you think the conservation money would be better used for?

          All of the things I've read, and the people I've heard speak , come from the perspective that protecting the land from pests is the best way to protect the biodiversity. Not much point in breeding kakapo if there's nowhere for them to live. And protecting the kakapo habitat also protects the whole suite of organisms which live there – from tussock grasses, through to geckos (and icky slime moulds – which are hard to get anyone excited about protecting).

          • Stuart Munro 3.2.1.1.1

            Untargeted poisoning means a lot of dead protected birds. The count protocols after 1080 operations do not inspire confidence – almost as if they were not trying to measure the effects rigorously.

            Kapiti was a manageably small island – Stewart Island not so much. A multi-year operation would be inevitable – but rat numbers don't take years to rebuild. And there is a project to deal with mice, which are a threat to lizards, which repopulate even more quickly.

            DoC are far too keen on broad spectrum poisoning in perpetuity, and breathtakingly arrogant about collateral kills. If I went after them I'd have them prosecuted for every protected animal that died within a 1080 drop. That would cool their jets a bit.

            • Belladonna 3.2.1.1.1.1

              So, still hearing that your approach is give up.

              Do you have a positive alternative to suggest?

              Yep, some birds have died after 1080 poison drops. Birds die in far greater numbers from possum, rat, ferret, etc. predation.

              • Stuart Munro

                I gave a solution – bait stations. Been used for decades. Highly selective – no collateral kills.

                But, like DoC, you're not interested in anything but the gross and irresponsible use of naked baits.

                So long Stewart Island Kaka – DoC is going to do to you what they've been doing to the Kea.

  4. Binders full of women 4

    I often volunteer for trapping programmes. I am saddened that possums have overrun te urewera now that DoC are not there. I love kiwis, kereru, whio and hunting.

    • Belladonna 4.1

      Friends in the area are devastated at the abandonment of the possum eradication programme in the Ureweras.

      And in many cases, have switched totally against any further iwi control of DoC land. Believe me, that's not where they started from….

      • weka 4.1.1

        why has the possum eradication programme been abandoned?

        • Belladonna 4.1.1.2

          TUT regard "livelihood possuming" as an important component of their management plan.

          They've moved from attempts to eradicate them (or at least control them significantly in key areas) to harvesting them for fur. Of course, when the fur price drops, the harvesting stops.

          Already a huge and noticeable impact on native birds (reported by friends who've actually been able to get into the areas around Lake Waikaremoana)

          • Janet 4.1.1.2.1

            Did not the Iwi around Waikaremoana refuse 1080 control ? When an Iwi does that they get no funding for pest control and most simply cannot afford to fund it themselves. They need to be funded about $10 per hectare to continue pest control when numbers are at suppression level.

            In the meantime there have been 217 research paper reports funded by the government on the benefits of 1080 and NOT ONE on any alternative way to pest control.

            • Belladonna 4.1.1.2.1.1

              Sounds like you're part of the let it go team as well….

              • RedLogix

                I don't think this is a fair representation of Janet's view or experience. Clearly she has a some background in pest control work and brings an alternative view worth debating.

                I would argue that 1080 remains our most accessible and proven tool for pest control, but it is not ideal and we need to keep the door open to consider other methods that might complement it.

                • Belladonna

                  DoC had already been doing intensive trapping in the Lake Waikaremoana area – especially around protecting breeding refuges for the kokako. Funding was available for TUT to carry this on. They chose not to do so.

                  1080 usage (or not) is a total red herring.

                  https://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/300535889/pest-control-efforts-in-te-urewera-have-changed–some-conservationists-worry-about-the-fate-of-native-species

                  • RedLogix

                    Well yes. I basically I agree with you. I read that entire article carefully – and it's a classic of it's kind. Lots of soundbites from individuals carefully selected to give the impression of balance, but not a lot of confidence that you have been given accurate picture.

                    For instance the last few paras make a lot of fine sounding claims, but deliver no details that might help the reader understand what it might mean in practice:

                    Asked if DOC is concerned that the money invested in its Mainland Island project has been wasted, Weston, its chief advisor for conservation, says the Te Urewera Board is "best placed to comment on current and future plans for the area and how this might connect to previous investment. Te Urewera is now managed to a fundamentally different paradigm”.

                    Luke says the closure of the border has impacted possum fur prices, so trapping frequency across the country has fallen.

                    “The key point is that valuing the health of all of Te Urewera’s living system, not just 10 per cent where tourists visit, requires a person-power and involvement much greater than any resource DOC or contractors can, or have ever, provided,” she says.

                    “This is not a uniquely Te Urewera issue; it is one of the most pressing issues in predator control nationwide.

                    “But thanks to Te Urewera Act there is a uniquely Te Urewera solution: the reconnection of Tūhoe people to Te Urewera, leading to a point where thriving, reconnected communities can take on this responsibility alongside professionals.”

                    It is of course perfectly legit to express your ideals and vision in broad terms – but if at the same time there are no details provided to flesh out what these ideas will mean in reality – this is always a big red flag. For instance what exactly does this mean?

                    Te Urewera is now managed to a fundamentally different paradigm”.

                    If it means people before kokako as one person states – this can only be interpreted as an abdication of biodiversity conservation as a primary goal. In a democracy voters might eventually get to pressure govt policymakers, but when control has been effectively privatised to an unelected, unaccountable local elites – well the kokako can go fuck themselves.

                    • Muttonbird

                      Interesting how livelihood possuming, a policy and practice possibly detrimental to the environment is so easily dismissed, yet livelihood dairying, a policy and practice certainly detrimental to the environment is so readily celebrated.

                      Oh yes, Pakeha dairy farmers are encouraged to return to their ancestral lands to practice age old environmental sabotage, but for some reason Tūhoe are not allowed?

                      Two wrongs don't make a right, of course…

              • Janet

                Let it go ? If you mean effective pest control, no, but pest control must be continuous and long term to be effective. Actually our professional trappers and hunters, when allowed to ( ie properly paid and invited to do so ) have already proved they can lower numbers to ZERO (that is not hard to do) the hard bit is economically keeping populations at ZERO. To achieve this, the whole way pest control is currently managed in NZ needs to be revisited and redesigned. To combat the very rapid and high rates of re-invasion, a very co-ordinated, inclusive and expanding implementation strategy is required nationwide. We already have the tools and the work force.

        • RedLogix 4.1.1.3

          Because white supremacist colonial racism somehow.

          • joe90 4.1.1.3.1

            More you're not the boss of me..

            • RedLogix 4.1.1.3.1.1

              From the article linked above:

              Tūhoe says people have to understand there’s now a fundamentally different way of doing things in Te Urewera, and they are re-thinking the entire management of the place.

              Consider the outcomes so far:

              • Protecting public access – fail.
              • Improved biodiversity – fail.
              • Local brown aristocracy getting to treat a once national treasure as their own private cash generating backyard – success.

              As I have written to once before, a very good friend of mine (now deceased) was instrumental in the extensive negotiations between DoC and Tuhoe over the joint management agreement that were formally concluded in 2014. I am well aware of the high hopes and good intentions DoC leadership held for what they believed would be a pioneering initiative.

              There is one hell of a lot more I could write to this, but in the interests of other people's privacy I will refrain. But suffice to say my friend would be very, very disappointed in the direction Tuhoe have taken once they got a sniff of power.

        • Binders full of women 4.1.1.4

          Take your pick of any or all: lack of workers, biodiversity is an urban pakeha nice-to-have (well meaning forest& bird peeps like myself), it's too remote, infighting amongst tribal elites, disfunction in iwi-DoC expectations, lack of belief in pred-free (eg f#ck 1080 stickers on every bros ute).

          • RedLogix 4.1.1.4.1

            What gets me is this wokester idea that only the sainted indigenous people understand or care about the environment. Well I just watched this RNZ video on eradicating gorse at Okarito.

            A couple of points. Before moving to Aus we participated in an urban regeneration project north of Johnsonville over a period of four years and while this Okarito project is obviously at a grander and more spectacular scale – much of it looked very, very familiar. People get really attached and committed to projects like this and take a genuine pride in the outcomes. (I know I am; I got to re-visit the area for a few hours in 2019 and was blown away at how successful we were.)

            And while it's clear you need to be able to afford to travel to a place like Okarito, even in Wellington it was the same white faces who turned up to do the work over and over.

  5. Janet 5

    We have ways and tools to pest control enough … Predatorfree Ltd would be better turning to designing schemes that properly coordinate pest control along with compliance and regulations. Councils need pushing to start landscape monitoring and directing landowners to meet their responsibilities in pest control.

  6. theotherpat 6

    take a squash racquet….the mozzies are huge!!!

  7. Puckish Rogue 7

    Been down there a couple of times the last few years and its rapidly becoming my favourite place in NZ

    I can't quite wrap my head around allowing pet cats though, I'd have thought they'd place a ban on pet cats by now

    Still great news though

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