"Doing nothing is not an option."
That was Tūrangi ecologist and pest management expert Cam Speedy's opening message to a group of keen volunteers at Te Amarama Hall yesterday morning.
"We need an army of New Zealanders to roll up their sleeves to meet the Predator Free 2050 goal, or the spiral to extinction will just continue ... Kiwi, kākā, kererū and other taonga will be gone within a few generations."
He said at the moment New Zealand had three tools to kill pests but none were perfect.
"We have trapping and poisoning, and then genetic tools knocking on the door, but they have all got tricky ethical challenges. We need to do what we do in a very humane way."
Speedy said rats, stoats, and possums were the three pests "to nail first".
"If we could get those out of our bush it would be transformed into something so different, it really would."
He said those three pests were the biggest threats because they competed with native species for food and ate their eggs and chicks.
"Ninety-five per cent of kiwi chicks are dead within three weeks because of stoat predation. They are about the size of a tennis ball with a beak."
Speedy said one of the most important things about trapping was checking traps worked.
"Practise setting them off with a soft toy. Scuff the ground and put the likes of linseed or salmon oil and sweet scents around the trap and the ground. Things like vanilla and sugar that draw pests to the site ...
"One of the best ways to check the traps is to set up a game camera to see how the pests interact with them."
He said different types of traps could be co-located to draw pests together.
"It does not matter if others of their kind have died in the area. In fact, they are attracted to the smell of death. They are nosy."
However, he said traps needed to be serviced, and the area cleared and reset regularly.
Speedy also said it was best to put traps parallel to the water's edge, facing some shelter, to trap pests around waterways.
"This way the pest was more likely to walk out to feed and then see the trap and enter it. As opposed to just scuttling over it."
Wendy Rapana, a co-ordinator for the Kaimai Mamaku Forest Forum, joined the session to look at pest management at a grassroots level.
"We do it on a large scale, over 240,000ha. So I wanted to understand how that work translates on a smaller scale."
Rotorua local Joe Fleet has been trapping pests since he was a boy, and he is now almost 80.
These days he focuses on being a Kauaka Stream kaitiaki, and brought photos of his work to the session.
"I am getting old so I wanted to meet others that are keen to join. Come on, let's look after this country."