80-year-old joins in predator trapline

By Hayley Gastmeier hayley.gastmeier@age.co.nz -
1 comment
Chris Corser, left, Marton, with her mother Bettine Hodge, Wellington, and Andrew Corser, who have been servicing a trapline around Cape Palliser's coastline for the past three years. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
Chris Corser, left, Marton, with her mother Bettine Hodge, Wellington, and Andrew Corser, who have been servicing a trapline around Cape Palliser's coastline for the past three years. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

A passionate 80-year-old is still willing to get her hands dirty in the name of conservation.

Every few months, Bettine Hodge drives over the Rimutaka Hill from her Wellington home and helps her daughter and son-in-law manage their trapline at Cape Palliser. The trapline runs 6km northeast from the Cape Palliser lighthouse and is part of a project by Aorangi Restoration Trust -- a group working to reinvigorate the Aorangi Forest Park.

Chris, Mrs Hodge's daughter, and Andrew Corser volunteer for the trust and have been managing the line for three years.

The couple are residents of Marton and for the past six years have owned a bach in Ngawi, where they stay every month.

Mrs Hodge enjoys being "a hanger on" with her family on the coastal trips and helps out where she can with the trapline.

"I might put an egg occasionally in a trap or write down they caught a rat or something," she said.

"I love it, I think it's a wonderful project and I'm very passionate about the environment and keeping it clean."

At 80, the former GP even rides on the back of a quad bike -- but she has to hang on tightly.

"Otherwise I'd get thrown off!

"They're very concerned for my welfare so they do slow down on the rough patches but they go quite fast on the flat parts so I have to hold on tight."

Mrs Hodge said she admired the conservation work the trust was doing, saying it was "an ongoing thing with trying to stop all those critters coming in".

"I have always been aware that we have to treasure our environment and do all we can to preserve it."

She said the south Wairarapa coast was a place she loved to visit.

"It's very wild, the huge cliffs are quite intimidating and quite a sight to see it eroding away and pushing the houses off into the sea.

"It's a beautiful coast and so different than the rest of the country."

Mr Corser said he had been frequenting the area since he was young.

"In the 1960s I remember going to the lighthouse and turning over boulders and spotting the little brown geckos running around everywhere.

"So when I took my children there 20 years later there were none there.

"That was one thing I noticed -- that the area could do with some predator control," Mr Corser said.

He and his wife, a senior biology teacher, had approached the Department of Conservation, who were planning to drop 1080 over the forest.

"They thought it would be good to have traplines along the coast and along the rivers. If there was some control over those area it would slow the incursion of predators."

Mr Corser said it took about four hours to set their 90 traps.

Sixty traps were Doc 250s, which were primarily to trap stoats and baited with an egg.

"Stoats are the worst ones. These things are carnivores and they eat whatever they can."

The 30 Timms traps, baited with fish, were used to catch wild cats.

"There are so many of them. They are bad, not just for the penguins but for the dotterels, sea birds nesting on the ground, reptiles and skinks.

"The feral cats are right along that coastline."

As well as the Corsers' trapline, five others run along side rivers that spill into Palliser Bay.

"We still regard it as fun not work, and we go on the windy days when there's no boating or fishing or diving.

"We have always been interested in the natural biological world and we have to try and make an effort to save the native animals."

Mr Corser said they had "caught an awful lot of predators" over three years and buying the bach in Ngawi "was the best thing we have ever done".

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