The goal of making Ōakura and Kaitake possum free is heading in the right direction.
Since January, more than 300 possums have been caught in Ōakura by experienced possum hunters Andrea and Max Hoegh and their two possum dogs.
The seaside town is part of a New Zealand first trial to be possum free as part of Towards Predator Free Taranaki, a region-wide project to remove possums and stoats from around the mountain.
The possum-free trial covers nearly 4500ha, the first time a trial of this size has been attempted across different land types in mainland New Zealand.
Andrea and Max work with locals, responding to reports of suspected possums in an attempt to remove possums within the target area.
"We've also been blown away by the overwhelming support of private landowners, giving us complete access to their property for rural predator control, which has been instrumental to our work," Max says.
An intensive detection programme to find more possums is currently underway, using a variety of methods such as thermal imaging and motion-sensor cameras.
A defence network of self-resetting traps, protecting the possum-free area from re-infestation, is also being set up around and throughout the area.
Andrea and Max are confident they'll continue catching these predators in Ōakura township, with the support of residents and their two possum dogs.
"Locals have been great, telling us if they've seen possums through the free-calling number 0800 736 222. It's been really helpful," says Max.
"Our possum dogs are going well also. They will be critical to locating the final possums."
The zero-possum trial builds on broader predator control efforts to restore Kaitake.
Towards predator free Taranaki is led by Taranaki Regional Council. $11.7 million has come from the Predator Free 2050 Ltd. The Restore Kaitake work is also supported by environmental restoration project Taranaki Mounga and community led groups like Restore Ōakura, Ōakura Community Board, iwi and Kaitake Ranges Conservation Trust.
■ Contact 0800 736 222 or visit trc.govt.nz/environment/working-together/pf-taranaki2050/restore-kaitake/ if you know of any possums in urban Ōakura.