Arrowtown Golf Club brings back some “wild” for native birds

Department of Conservation —  12/10/2022

This is the fourth blog in the Hole-in-One for Conservation series.

The Predator Free 2050 (PF2050) goal is working towards an Aotearoa where our native species are safe from extinction and thrive alongside us. This ambitious goal aims to eradicate our three most harmful predators – stoats, rats, and possums – from all of New Zealand. And everyone has a role to play.

DOC and our region’s golf courses are working together to champion predator control, habitat restoration, and sustainability on golf courses. With 500,000 regular players and clubs across the country, the golfing community is in a unique position to lead local action for our precious native species. Below, we highlight Arrowtown as a club achieving big wins for nature, communities, AND recreation.

A Hole-in-One for Conservation: Arrowtown Golf Club

Reinstated Otago landscape.
📷: Arrowtown Golf Club

Supported by its members and community, Arrowtown Golf Club is doing its bit to nurture nature back to health. The club supports native species surviving and thriving by controlling harmful introduced predators on their 153 hectares of course.

And their conservation efforts are paying off.’s “Short and Sweet” list of best short courses describes the club as ‘brilliant’ and ‘wild’, winning them the only New Zealand course listed in that category.

Rabbits followed by stoats, rats and feral cats

For a long time, the club ran a pest-control programme for rabbits to reduce soil erosion from their burrowing. Members also became concerned about destructive introduced predators such as stoats, ferrets, rats, hedgehogs and feral cats. Members of the club noticed an eerie absence of birdsong, sparse flowering plants, and no lizards scurrying across the soil.

These enthusiastic members decided they needed to take action to protect the undeniable beauty of the precious central Otago ecosystem.

Let the competition begin!

Banking on the friendly competitiveness of their members, the club encouraged members to form groups to purchase predator traps. Each trap was numbered, and the competition began! At the end of a season the trap with the most successful catches got a prize – usually a bottle of whiskey!

Green-keeping staff worked with volunteers to remove invasive plants such as wilding pines and broom from wild ‘no-mow’ zones. They then planted native plants, adding delicate grasses, toetoe, and harakeke (flax) back to wetland areas to provide food and shelter for native birds, lizards, and insects.

Club staff also introduced bees to pollinate flowering plants. This environmental action was a win-win with the club now bringing in extra income from selling local honey. But the team didn’t stop there. They installed a ‘bio loo’ on the 7th tee, disguised as an old mustering hut. This quirky sustainability feature helps the course save water and eventually produces a safe and organic compost.

Adding up the benefits

The club’s predator control, sustainability actions, and habitat restoration programme have had big benefits. They include:

1. Players and visitors spotting more native animals

2. Recovering native wetland bush blooming with harakeke flowers

3. A New Zealand Golf Course Superintendent’s Environment Award

Course Superintendent, Rick Machray, knows that restoring nature is a community-wide effort.  Arrowtown Golf Club couldn’t have done it without the generous support of predator free groups and enthusiastic community members.

“Being part of a small community, I had good connections with our local community groups including the Arrowtown Predator-Free Organisation. They donated traps to the club’s predator-control programme.’

Thanks to their collective impact, golfers and residents alike can now enjoy the flourishing bush. Golf clubs like Arrowtown show that local businesses, community groups, and individuals can all come together to make a difference for nature.

NZ Falcon/ Kārearea nesting at the golf club.
📷: Arrowtown Golf Club

Get involved in Predator Free 2050

Curious how you or your business can join courses like Arrowtown Golf Club in getting involved in Predator Free 2050? Learn more about finding your local group, trapping in your community, and getting the whole whānau involved.