9 Mar 2020

The community trapping pests along Ōrari River

From Afternoons, 2:24 pm on 9 March 2020

In South Canterbury, by the Ōrari river near Geraldine, groups of farmers and environmentalists are banding together to trap the entire length of the river.

Bryan Clearwater, who describes himself as both farmer and greenie, told Jesse Mulligan about the mission to rid the river of pests.

Protecting endangered birds nests on the Orari River in South Canterbury

Protecting endangered birds nests on the Orari River in South Canterbury Photo: Supplied/Orari river protection group

A stream that runs through his farm empties into the Ōrari and he says by fencing it and replanting over ten years’ ago, they also unwittingly created habitat for predators.

The Ōrari River, which for part of its length is braided, has black-billed gulls, pied stilts and banded dotterels that are prey to hedgehogs, stoats, ferrets, weasels, cats and possums, Clearwater says.

He says that’s what started getting him involved in trapping …. although it was piece meal and seasonal when he started.

Black bill gull eggs

Black bill gull eggs Photo: Supplied

“It just seemed appropriate to say rather than do this on a seasonal approach, let's get all the landowners and do the whole damn river from the river mouth to the headwaters in the upper catchment.”

And that’s what they’ve done with 45 landowners now on board.

It was just remarkably easy to get the support of so many farmers for this idea, because so many of them are already doing their bit anyway.”

Bryan says they are aiming to get the whole river trapped.

“We're going for the whole lot. The upper catchment is in the hands of about five or six landowners and their catchment is about 50,000 hectares. It runs into a fairly narrow gorge before it becomes a braided river crossing or covering 30 kilometres down to the coast.

Bryan Clearwater

Bryan Clearwater Photo: Supplied

“That 30 kilometres, obviously, we want traps on each side of the river. If we were to take the Department of Conservation advice and put a trap every hundred meters then we would need 700 traps.”

They will also need to employ someone to manage the traps, re-bait and re-set them, he says.

 They currently have 100 traps but are confident of reaching their 700 target.

Our goal of 700 traps is very achievable. We get tourists coming to our farm who have offered to buy traps for us.

“It's a very achievable goal and a little bit like eating an elephant, we sort of had to break it up into little bites and little sections of the river, so that the landowners take responsibility for their patch, knowing that all the neighbours are doing the same thing.”

DOC 200 trap

DOC 200 trap Photo: Supplied