Gareth Morgan offers 'beer for rats'

Gareth Morgan. Photo / David White
Gareth Morgan. Photo / David White

Calls have been flooding in to philanthropist Gareth Morgan from university towns keen to take up his 'beer for rats' programme which will be introduced in Wellington tomorrow.

The businessman has teamed up with Victoria University of Wellington to encourage students to get involved with conservation - by trapping rats in exchange for free beer.

The Beer Trap project, which will run for six weeks, has already gained a lot of attention, and Dr Morgan said he has been receiving calls from other universities asking him to bring the scheme to their cities.

"There's been quite a response to it, informally," he said. "We've had other towns come at us, like Dunedin came at us and said, 'bloody Castle St where all the students live is full of rats. Why don't you come down here?'.

"I said, 'because I'd probably go bust in a week, if it's that bad," he said, laughing.

The idea came about when his Enhance the Halo project - which aims to get Wellington households actively involved in working towards a pest-free city - was trying to come up with new ways to engage residents.

"We thought, 'how do we appeal to students?', so we sat down and said, 'what do students like?', 'beer', and when you do word association students/ beer, student flats/rats - got it," he said.

"So we said, 'okay we'll give them traps to trap their rats, dead or alive'."

The idea has gained plenty of attention so far, but Dr Morgan said he hoped "it's not too popular or I'll have to bring the beer in by the tanker".

Jonathan Musther, president of Victoria University's science society, said there's been "quite a bit of interest" in the scheme, and he expects the 100 traps set aside for the project to be given away "quiet easily" after the launch tomorrow evening.

The majority who take up the offer are expected to be ecology department students, Mr Musther said.

"Obviously we'd like it to be broader than that, but we expect a good size core group of ecology students to be the ones who, not only pick it up at the beginning, but also stick with it."

However, there won't be any horror scenes of students walking into the bar with a bag full of dead rats in exchange for a night of free beersies. Instead, students will have to deliver any rats they catch to the School of Biological Sciences, where they will receive a voucher in return.

The rats will be frozen and used later in the year for post-graduate research projects.

However, Dr Morgan ruled out bringing - and funding - the scheme to other cities, saying it was a Wellington-only project. But said he would encourage other towns and cities to follow suit.

The philanthropist has made headlines in the past with his alternative ideas to rid New Zealand of introduced pests, most notably his Cats To Go campaign of last year which branded the beloved pets "friendly neighbourhood serial killers".

Golden Bay restaurant and bar The Mussel Inn has previously offered a reward for dead pests, handing out free beer or cider to patrons who brought in the tails of possums, stoats, ferrets, weasels, cats and rats.

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How to take part in the Beer Trap:

- The project will be launched at the Hunter Lounge, in the Victoria University student union building, at 6.30pm on Thursday.

- Participants can collect a rat trap to set up in their student flat or house.

- All entrants must be students, but they can use their own traps.

- Once a rat is caught, students are asked to contact a researcher at the School of Biological Sciences to drop off the pest in exchange for a beer voucher, which can be used at Hunter Lounge. Information on who to contact will be provided when students collect a trap.

- 100 traps are currently available, but more are being sought to meet expected demand.

- The project will run for six weeks, after which participants can opt to keep their trap, at a cost of $10.

- APNZ

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