Greenkeepers taking a swing at pest control

Department of Conservation —  10/12/2018

By Julie Kidd, Strategic Partnerships Advisor

When Auckland’s Remuera Golf Course went for the international Golf Environmental Organisation certification in 2015, head greenkeeper Spencer Cooper immediately got on the line to DOC in Auckland. Part of the accreditation required participation in a community driven conservation project and his request fell into my very receptive ears.

As a (poor) golfer, I was delighted to hear Spencer’s team was so committed to supporting great environmental and conservation practices. Remuera went on to achieve the GEO certification, the first golf course in New Zealand, joining just 150 other world-class courses.

Skip forward to November 2018 and here we are, at Remuera Golf Course, with some of Auckland’s top head greenkeepers attending DOC’s inaugural PF 2050 Trapping Workshop for Golf Courses.

Superintendents from Auckland’s leading golf courses

Superintendents from Auckland’s leading golf courses. 📷: Julie Kidd


Why target golf courses?

  • There are 390 golf courses throughout the country.
  • On average, there are more than 90 species of plants on the course, a third of which are native.
  • Urban centres have a large number of courses eg: Wellington has 27 clubs and Auckland has 19 clubs, and, districts almost double that – Canterbury District has 38 and Otago sports a healthy 46.
  • Golf is the largest club-based sport in the country with more than 500,000 people playing regularly. This gives DOC an enormous potential audience which we may not have otherwise got to.

For many people, the golf course is at the epicentre of the community, and, as we know, successful pest-control programmes are run from the community.

Intense concentration over site preparation

Intense concentration over site preparation. 📷: Julie Kidd


By working with course superintendents, we can work far more efficiently by ‘training the trainers’, who will in turn work with their own greenkeepers, course volunteers, club members as well as property owners that back on to the courses. Ideally, this will impact the community at large and organically grow into larger backyard trapping projects. A classic ‘ripple effect’.

To do this we will engage with the nine hubs of Golf Environmental Superintendent nationally – all of which run regular training workshops where we can include the trapping workshop. They will be able to exponentially grow the number of courses with an efficient trapping programme much faster than we can alone.

Des Topp, Chair of the New Zealand Golf Industry Association is an enthusiastic supporter of pushing the Trapping Workshop though the Superintendent’s hubs. He says, “Why wouldn’t we aim to be the first country in the world to have all of our golf courses running pest-control programmes? It is entirely possible and working with DOC and the other agencies, we will get there. We really want to be part of the solution.”

Spencer adds, “The other part of getting rid of pests is initiating a native tree planting programme. We want to have a much higher percentage of native species planted as we know our native birds need natives to feed off. It is part of our overall plan. Pests first, then planting.”

Hands on demos went particularly well

Hands on demos went particularly well. 📷: Julie Kidd


Barbara Bercic, Communications and Engagement Manager for DOC’s PF2050 team adds “Everyone has the opportunity to contribute to the predator free goal. Collaboration with community is key to New Zealand achieving it. I love the aspiration of the Superintendent Greenkeepers from the courses throughout NZ and NZ Golf’s support and commitment. It’s a perfect fit – especially as urban developers start eyeing up these large urban green spaces for housing developments. Converting golf clubs into biodiversity oases that bring nature closer to urban dwellers and showing them what pest control and native planting can achieve, is a stroke of genius.”

The workshop and the work with the golf clubs has been a collaborative effort between Auckland Partnerships, Operations and the Predator Free team in DOC. Working better by working together.

Home of NZ Golf

390 golf courses nationally provide a huge opportunity for great outcomes. 📷: Julie Kidd

2 responses to Greenkeepers taking a swing at pest control


    It’s good to see golf courses wanting to make a contribution to the environment, but I see no mention of the use of pesticides on golf courses, especially those used to suppress worms. What point is there in exterminating predators when the real threats to threatened species are the use of pesticides and the subsequent massive decline in insects

      Brian Habberfield 16/12/2018 at 4:09 am

      Good point Narena. This initiative may well encourage more careful consideration around which pesticides to use and how much, especially if more native birds are seen to be breeding less molested by predators. Another consideration is the domestic cats that many of these neighbours will have, they alsi may learn to modify their management of these cats and keep them contained. The courses might live trap for ferals as well. They could even install nest boxes and pest excluding trunk wraps on some of their bigger trees. Nothing is perfect in this world, but we can make it better, and this is an encouraging initiative with the potential for much learning.