A mischief of rats spotted at a popular Bay of Plenty picnic spot has sparked calls for better pest control in the Western Bay of Plenty, but authorities say people need to do their bit too.

Welcome Bay resident Dave Horan was enjoying lunch with family at Maketū Park Road Reserve when he saw nine rats on the grass a few metres away.

"There's only a narrow strip between the carpark and the kids' playing area, and there were nine of them, nine rats running around. That's where people sit and have their lunch and kids play."

Horan was "disgusted" and contacted the Western Bay of Plenty District Council to raise his concerns. When he received a call back a few days later, the woman told Horan the council was unable to do anything, "because people walk along there and walk their dogs", he said.

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"I was bloody shocked. Here are kids playing on the swings and people having Christmas lunch like we were, and we counted nine rats running around."

Horan said the council's stance was "not good enough".

Maketū Park Road Reserve, where nine rats were spotted while Dave Horan was having a picnic. Photo / Google
Maketū Park Road Reserve, where nine rats were spotted while Dave Horan was having a picnic. Photo / Google

Council reserves and facilities manager Peter Watson said the council was aware of Horan's sighting, which was one of two Western Bay rats complaints within the past six months.

Watson would not say whether there was an infestation but said the council would continue to monitor the Maketū situation and take action, such as sending a certified pest control operator to assess the scene, if necessary.

The council checked Maketū reserves daily to ensure bins are emptied and barbecues are cleaned but "to put bait or traps on public land where there are children and animals would not be a wise action", he said.

The second complaint involved rats attracted to rubbish at a vacant house in Lyndhurst Ave, Little Waihi, which has since been resolved.

Dave Horan is concerned at the number of rats he saw in a Maketū reserve, saying more needs to be done about them. Photo / George Novak
Dave Horan is concerned at the number of rats he saw in a Maketū reserve, saying more needs to be done about them. Photo / George Novak

The council was part of a Predator Free Bay of Plenty group promoting landowner backyard rat control as part of a Predator Free 2050 programme and as a result, many people were actively trapping rats in the Maketū and Te Puke area. However, the group was looking for more volunteers to "also do their bit by trapping rats on their own property".

The council's responsibility under the Reserves Act is to control pest animals on public land only. Under the Biosecurity Act, animal pest control on private land is the responsibility of the landowner. The trouble was rats did not recognise such boundaries, Watson said.

Tauranga City Council belongs to the same predator-free group.

Natural environment co-ordinator Dianne Paton said too many people treated pest control as a council-only problem.

Volunteer environmental groups had already been a huge help - particularly in Maketū - but "we are trying to empower people to take a bit more ownership".

Paton had already offered traps to people who lived near city reserves and said rat control was incredibly important to protect wildlife.

Predator Free Bay of Plenty had a goal of helping New Zealand become predator-free by 2050.