Taranaki is making a play to be the first region to rid itself of pest predators, with an unprecedented effort that's just received an $11.7m kick-start.
Conservation Minister Eugenie was this morning at Pukeiti gardens, at the foot of Mt Taranaki, to announce the new funding from Government-owned company Predator Free 2050.
The cash boost will help launch Taranaki Taku Tūranga, a collaboration between Taranaki Regional Council (TRC) and rural landowners, that aims to empty all local native habitats of pest predators.
The project, the largest of its kind in New Zealand and costing $47m in the first five years, would be progressively rolled out across 4500ha of farmland surrounding Taranaki/Egmont National Park.
Remote sensors, wireless nodes and a trapping app would be among "internet of things" technology used to remove predators and prevent re-infestations.
The high-tech equipment makes trapping more efficient, particularly in rural areas, and provides live trapping data – sending a smartphone alert to the user when a trap goes off.
Data would also be collated about how, where and when predators are caught, helping the council identify clusters and tweak the trapping network.
A virtual barrier, made up of natural barriers, traps and remote sensors, would prevent re-infestations and be moved across the region as predators were removed from each area.
The region would be divided into pizza-slice sections and different phases of work will be rolled out around the mountain, starting in the New Plymouth area, Oakura and the Kaitake Range.
"Taranaki has unique advantages that can make it the first region in the country to remove introduced predators – its relatively compact geography, its regional and national expertise in biodiversity and predator control, and strong community collaboration and enthusiasm at all levels," TRC chairman David MacLeod said.
The project would link in with successful predator work in Egmont National Park by Taranaki Mounga Project, which has already reduced predators to low levels and allowed the reintroduction of several species including the North Island robin and blue duck.
It would also build on existing work in urban and rural areas, including TRC's voluntary urban possum control programme in New Plymouth, and its rural Self-Help Possum Programme, one of the biggest programmes of its kind in the country keeping possum numbers down.
"This exciting project is uniting a community against predators, using traditional and new methods to remove possums, rats and stoats from the region," Predator Free 2050 chief executive Ed Chignell said.
"A project of this size and covering all land types has never been attempted before and the lessons learnt will be shared with the country, advancing New Zealand's predator-free 2050 goal."
Last year, Predator Free New Zealand issued a request for expressions of interest in collaborative landscape-scale predator control projects.
Forty-five groups, representing 6 per cent of New Zealand's land area, expressed interest.
"New Zealand has a predator crisis – 82 per cent of native birds are threatened with, or at risk of extinction," Sage said.
"We must invest in a comprehensive programme of predator control initiatives, to save Aotearoa's indigenous wildlife."