• Mike Kampkes of Narrow Neck is a contract building labourer and environmental political activist.

While John Key left an environmental ticking time bomb in the shape of rampant immigration and unfettered dairying development he also quixotically left us with an environmental ambition, Predator Free 2050.

It is an idea that I believe has gripped the imagination of the nation - unless you are a pessimist worn down by a lifetime's experience of piecemeal, underfunded and unco-ordinated predator control and ceaseless environmental degradation.

Geoff Thomas' recent Dialogue contribution, "Pest-free biggest con since Y2K" was defeatist, born of an old and tired world view. While deriding the eradication programme as being unachievable he pitifully suggests a bounty as a solution. This has proven to fail time and again.


Bounties create livelihoods and it is in the best interests of bounty hunters to maintain the existence of their prey, though it may play a tactical roll in an overall eradication strategy.

On cats, Thomas waives the white flag, offering only problems. Yet if we put our thinking caps on and understand we are working to a 33 year time frame, why not? I don't propose to have the solutions but a two stage programme would make sense.

First, control the flow of cats into the wild by making it illegal to own a fertile cat, and set up a licensed cat breeding industry permitted to sell only de-sexed animals. Once the supply problem has been contained a wild cat eradication programme can be developed.

Interestingly cats are not part of Predator Free 2050. Just imagine the field day cats will have as we clear the field of every other predator. I can read the 2030 headline now: "Wild cat population exceeds human population for the first time" Seriously, the programme will need to include wild cat eradication.

On rats, yes we will need to root them out from under every house. It is do-able. People live in these houses. By mobilising the population and co-ordinating the pest destruction industry there is a solution there somewhere.

Imagine planned community rat clearances occurring across the country. This is every little boy's dream, and a lot of dads would not be far behind. Cutting edge gene drive/editing technology may also be a solution in time.

In addition there are technological advances such as the Goodnature resetting trap. Check out their website for true Kiwi inspiration (goodnature.co.nz). More techniques will come through science in the next few years.

None of it will be easy. Many aspects of the goal look impossible at this time but it is a new world because finally there is some political will to get a result. This is what has been missing throughout Geoff Thomas' lifetime, and mine.

What's more that political will has begun embedding itself into the machinery of governance with the formation of a high powered board of directors whose lifetimes' achievement will be judged on the success of the 2050 initiative. Take a look at the project website. Things are happening.

I urge all real Kiwis to get involved. The more we back this initiative the less likelihood future political inertia can usurp it.

I believe this programme beckons to the heart of who we are as a people. If we can galvanise a whole nation around this mammoth task it will be the single biggest peace-time endeavour our nation will have succeeded in. It will complete us; a Treaty of Waitangi with our environment.

Should we commit to giving back an environment for all of our native species to thrive in, the Predator Free 2050 vision will gives us true nationhood.

I am a "born and raised" New Zealander, the product of the post war diaspora, a forgotten number on the rump of the baby boomer generation. I have never felt comfortable, or more to the point, at home, watching the destruction of our landscapes and wildlife which, to me, are the very essence of who we are.

We are a small nation but vast in our landscape. We are a midsummer dip in a shaded river pool, the icy thrill of a river crossing in the upper reaches, a tumble in the surf as the kahawai scatter, a billy, deep in the still of the bush, a tui call reverberating through a forested valley.

Or, we can become stateless by continuing our colonisation through rampant immigration, by headlong agricultural expansion to satisfy the greed of a few and meet the inane, anachronistic desire for economic "growth" at any cost with no thought to the end game.

Predator Free 2050 may not be an inspiring name but its ambition is a light in an otherwise bleak landscape. It could herald a sea change. However, that is a choice for each of us to make.