Native bird species are flourishing once again in a 1000-year-old forest on Rotorua's doorstep after a "groundbreaking" partnership between Canopy Tours, the Department of Conservation and New Zealand pest trap manufacturer Goodnature.
The Dansey Rd Scenic Reserve on the Mamaku Plateau was overrun by predators such as possums, rats and stoats until it became home to New Zealand's only native forest zipline canopy tour in 2013.
Founder James Fitzgerald and his team of 35 have since cleared pests from half of the reserve to both improve the business and conservation outcomes.
The attraction's three-hour tours explain the ecological restoration projects at the reserve and educate visitors about New Zealand's flora and fauna.
In the first two years, the business quickly ran out of money to fund traditional trapping methods that required setting and clearing hundreds of traps after every kill.
"It was a very naive attempt," Fitzgerald told the Rotorua Daily Post.
However, in 2015, a pioneering agreement between DoC and Canopy Tours allowed part of the leasing payments to go directly to restoring native species in the reserve.
This allowed Canopy Tours to replace all of the single-action traps with Goodnature's self-resetting traps which were much cheaper to maintain and much less labour-intensive.
Goodnature's A24 self-resetting trap can kill up to 24 rats, mice and stoats per compressed CO2 canister.
DoC has used the traps to remove entire rat populations on many critical ecosystems including 65ha Native Island and 600ha of Harts Hill in Fiordland National Park.
By the end of last year, 700 Goodnature traps had been spread across 250ha of the Dansey Rd Scenic Reserve in a network of 24kms of trapping lines.
The benefit of the traps was proven by the visible presence of kereru, tomtit, fantail, grey warbler and whitehead birds while the Rotorua Daily Post visited.
"We are five years into this project and the forest has been transformed from a place of silence to an area singing with birdsong. The stripped tree canopy has been replenished and we are on track to have a fully restored forest in just 10 years," Fitzgerald said as the company and its partners celebrated the progress in the reserve yesterday .
Director-General of Conservation Lou Sanson was there to mark the occasion after whizzing through the trees on a tour.
He described the tours as a "flagship" for DoC.
"James came into the office and said 'Could I have a reserve close to Rotorua?'. Dansey Reserve was pretty much unknown and there was a tiny little car park, and look what he has done.
"It's partnerships such as these which will help us achieve our Predator Free 2050 ambitions," he said.
"Our vision over time is that every business in New Zealand contributes to conservation, and James you're right at the forefront end of that."
Goodnature co-founder and design director Robbie van Dam said: "Dansey Reserve offers a stunning glimpse into what the future could hold".
"We started Goodnature 10 years ago because we firmly believe New Zealand will one day be pest free and we wanted to design and build the best tools for helping bring about this goal."
Nearly 150,000 people have been through the reserve with Canopy Tours in the past five years.
The business was was the supreme winner at the 2016 New Zealand Tourism Awards.