8 Jul 2019

Massive urban pest eradication effort launched

From Checkpoint, 5:49 pm on 8 July 2019

The country's largest ever effort to eradicate introduced pests from an urban area has begun in Wellington. 

The $2.4 million project from Predator Free Wellington aims to eliminate rodents, possums and mustelids from Miramar peninsula by Christmas.

The area is home to about 20,000 people, and more than 6000 traps are being set in peoples' backyards, businesses, and in schools and on reserve land in a bid to bring back native birds and lizards to the area. 

A team of volunteer trappers from Predator Free Miramar has been already begun the work, and from today until December, two dozen Predator Free Wellington staff are being enlisted to finish the job. 

It is placing traps on a 100m x 100m grid across the entire peninsula - putting it within home range of every single rat in the area - with traps and bait stations checked by staff weekly. 

Predator Free Wellington community engagement and field officer Emma Rowell said Miramar's geography makes it an ideal spot to roll out the scheme. 

"It's almost an island ... and although this is quite different because it's an urban area ... it does mean that it provides this really defendable area.

"The airport actually forms a really nice natural barrier too." 

Ms Rowell said she went out door knocking to inform residents about the plan and so far almost 3000 have given permission to host a trap on their property.

She said the community's response has been overwhelming positively.

The goal is that by Christmas, no more pests will be found in the traps - because they will all already be dead.

Predator Free Wellington project director James Willcocks said something of this scale has never been done before in an urban area, and the Miramar project was a "proof of concept". 

He said Island Bay was being eyed as the next target for the scheme, with the eventual plan to remove pests from the entire Wellington region south of Porirua.

The 10-year project to make Wellington predator free is funded by the Wellington city and regional council, Taranaki Whānui, Predator Free 2050 Limited and the NEXT Foundation.

The government aims to eradicate all possums, rats and stoats in New Zealand by 2050

Community forms around eradication project

Wade Hammond lives in Strathmore with his partner Jacqueline and son Walter. 

They signed on as volunteers three months ago and the 15 traps they maintain on their land and the reserve over the fence kill on average 10 pests a night.

That's about 300 fewer vermin already, and the community has got together online to share their best extermination stories. 

"Everybody ... in our little community group takes photos, they pull the rat out, put it besides the trap and [take] photos," Mr Hammond said.

"It's a bit of bragging rights, everybody posts on Facebook and everybody comments what the best baits are and the best way to set the trap and things like that."

He said their efforts have made a difference already. In the last month the number of birds in the area has exploded.