Generations of wildlife-chomping rats will rue the day a group of Northland students went on a class trip to learn about ecological restoration.
A few years ago Lucy Sizer, a 14-year-old from Takou Bay in the Far North, and classmates from Springbank School took part in the floating classroom programme organised by Project Island Song, a community initiative returning wildlife to the Bay of Islands.
The experience taught Lucy about the terrible toll taken by rats on native birds, insects and bush, and how to build traps to combat them.
So when she had to come up with a community project for her school's Year 9 enterprise programme, it was a no-brainer.
Lucy and schoolmates Kanwar Gill, William Scott and William Blake — collectively known as Team DOC — set about raising money by selling sausages, burgers and homemade re-useable shopping bags.
The group then contacted Andrew Mentor, Mid North coordinator for Kiwi Coast, who sourced rat traps from the regional council and materials at cost, while inmates at Ngawha Prison built the trap boxes.
That meant the team was able to get 100 rat trap boxes for the $727 they raised, topped up to $1000 by the Sizer family.
The students handed over the ute-load of trap boxes to Department of Conservation staff at the school's final assembly of the year yesterday.
Lucy said the group wanted a project that would benefit the environment.
''I got the idea because my parents are all into native bush and birds, and I remembered how we built traps when we went on the floating classroom.''
Mentor said the rat traps would be distributed to various community and Landcare groups around the Mid North.
''Rats eat all sorts of native birds and lizards, as well as seeds and plants. They stop forests regenerating and compete with native birds and insects for food.''
The boxes, which have a rat-sized entry, were needed to stop birds such as kiwi and fernbirds being caught.
Enterprise teacher Michelle Chapman said the project had been a great learning experience.
''They've learnt lots of skills like commitment, organisation, seeing things through to completion, environmental awareness, and being community minded — doing things for others instead of themselves''.