A bold new conservation project is aiming to bring wildlife back to residents' backyards by creating a predator-free urban environment in Whangārei city.
Tiakina Whangārei is a community-led project backed by two key partners, NorthTec and Northland Regional Council, and has support from over a dozen other environmentally focused organisations.
Tiakina Whangārei - meaning "to look after" or "care for" – was officially launched earlier this month and is designed to help people connect with the local environment and conservation activities in their own patch.
Activities include maintaining a trap in your backyard, volunteering on an existing conservation project in Whangārei, becoming a community lead or starting your own trapping project.
NorthTec environmental management tutor Dai Morgan said the project is about empowering people to learn more about the natural biodiversity in their environment so they can make positive change.
"One of the main threats to biodiversity is predation from rats, possums and mustelids... we're hoping people get into pest management and then think there's more stuff we can do.
"Essentially, we want to identify the barriers that are stopping conservation action and remove them. We want people to realise Whangārei has some awesome biodiversity around it - it just needs a bit of a hand at the moment."
While the project doesn't have an end date, it is working in alignment with the Government's Predator Free 2050 project, an ambitious goal to rid New Zealand of introduced predators that threaten the nation's natural taonga.
Morgan believes increasing numbers of people are looking for opportunities to connect with, and care for, the environment.
Whangārei city has the benefit of being surrounded by other successful conservation projects including Matakohe Limestone Island, Dragonfly Springs Wetland Sanctuary and Parihaka Community Landcare, he said.
"There are many people who have been actively managing predators in their own backyards and local reserves for years. Tiakina Whangārei gives these people a chance to be acknowledged and to join forces with their neighbours, to increase the impact of their efforts."
NRC biosecurity manager for partnerships Kane McElrea said the project is about engaging the urban community.
"Historically a lot of pest management focus has been in rural areas of Northland, and this will bring wildlife back to peoples' urban backyards and improve the environmental values in our city.
"It's early days but as we progress it'll become an awesome project that Whangarei people will be driving."
There are plans to expand Tiakina Whangārei to focus on other areas like weeds and pest plants in future.
Tiakina Whangārei representatives have met with several schools and community groups already and are available to talk with anyone interested in the project.
$10 rat trap kits are available from the Northland Regional Council in Water St, and there will also be an information stand at Whangārei Quarry Gardens on August 17 from 10am to 2pm.