The National Party will put another $70 million towards controlling pests in New Zealand, it announced this afternoon.
Most of the funding, about $40 million, would go towards funding community groups to eradicate rats, possums and stoats.
National leader Bill English, announcing the funding in Tauranga, said it would allow the Government to upgrade its efforts to make New Zealand predator-free by 2050.
The goal of making 1 million hectares of land free of predators by 2025 would now be able to be achieved two years earlier, he said.
The new funding, allocated over four years, would allow for the creation of special Department of Conservation rangers who could advise community groups on pest control. That would cost $8 million over four years.
DOC's baseline funding would be increased by about $5 million a year.
"It's not a large amount of money," English said. "But because it's focused, targeted at practical change, involving so many people who are willing to give their time and expertise that's going to be money with a big return."
He rejected the suggestion that the Government was leaving the difficult job of pest control to voluntary groups.
"It's not relying on volunteers... It enables all of those people who want to contribute to be able to contribute."
English hinted there would be further funding boosts for community groups, saying the government would "continue to respond to demand". The public interest in the predator-free target had so far exceeded his expectations, he said.
"When you hear about groups in a suburb getting together and giving out a trap to each household and then they meet every now and again and talk about how many they've trapped. Some of those I've spoken to are disappointed that there's only one or two in a week."
It is National's third large environmental policy announced in the last three weeks, following earlier commitments on cleaning up freshwater and new charges for walking tracks to pay for conservation infrastructure.
The new funding for pest control would be included in next year's Budget.