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On the heels of last week’s major Predator Free New Zealand announcement, ranger Don Herron shares the story of a community-run initiative which has been working to make their suburb pest free.

Plimmerton is the first Porirua suburb to aim for pest free status. ‘Pest Free Plimmerton’ is the brainchild of three dedicated locals: Lee McLauchlan, Linda Kerkmeester and Heather Evans.

Plimmerton residents receive their traps.

Plimmerton residents receive their traps

The seed was planted for Pest Free Plimmerton early in 2016 when Lee saw a weasel running across her street. Inspired by Kelvin Hastie’s success in Crofton Downs, and having caught a number of rats in her ceiling space, she was motivated to tackle the problem and get her local community on board.

Lee teamed up with a couple of friends with similar dreams of a pest free suburb. Heather had seen rats running along her back fence and a couple of residents had seen weasels running across roads. Linda was already checking traps along the foreshore for Greater Wellington Regional Council and was involved in the eco-restoration of Mana Island, so had seen first-hand the benefits to local wildlife where pests have been eradicated.

The project has three simple goals:

• Rid Plimmerton and surrounding forest of mammalian predators

• Get the community involved in long-term trapping

• Increase bird and lizard numbers.

And most importantly:

• Keep it simple!

Pest Free Plimmerton worked with DOC from the start. DOC provided 88 traps and the project was launched to the community on May 7 at the local kindergarten. Over 100 residents turned up and all traps were allocated.

At first the programme planned to give away traps to keen residents but after people indicated they would be happy to pay, Pest Free Plimmerton decided to ask for trap ‘sponsorship’. This allowed them to buy more traps and became the linchpin to the self-funding model they now have established, thus financing more traps and widening the reach of the trapping network.

Pest Free Plimmerton now have 150 traps in the wider community and plans for a further 50. DOC has supplied ten DOC 150 traps to target mustelids and hedgehogs.

The programme has no committee as such, with the aim to concentrate on getting as many traps out in the community as possible.

“We didn’t want to be bogged down with the paper work, meetings and minutes,” says Lee.

The group consulted Kelvin Hastie on the best way for Plimmerton to become pest-free. Kelvin was the driving force in New Zealand’s first pest-free suburb, Wellington’s Crofton Downs. The key to Crofton Downs’ success was getting residents involved and taking ownership of the project.

plimmerton-pest-free-logoHeather explains the thinking for Pest Free Plimmerton is similar.

“When the community is involved they feel that they are making a difference. We set the framework for this to be successful.”

Pest Free Plimmerton also noticed once the word got out, more residents wanted to be part of the project and get traps in their backyards. Traps can be picked up from Heather’s porch along with instructions on placement and best lure options.

It has been a great learning curve for all involved. Trap location is important. Ship rats are great climbers so traps can be set along walls or fences near the bush, however Norway rats are bigger and tend to stick to the ground

Pest Free Plimmerton has an active social media presence and monthly newsletter. All residents notify by email what they have caught. This is added to a spreadsheet and the results are shared with the community. Residents are encouraged to post comments and pictures and share advice on the Pest Free Plimmerton Facebook page. The results so far have exceeded all expectations. In the first two months over 150 rats have been caught.

An aerial map of Plimmerton, created by Kelvin Hastie, is used to represent the density of traps. This is a great visual tool for all those involved and identifies places where traps are needed. Linda and Heather have been door knocking to help fill the gaps in the network. Nine times out of ten, the resident is happy to have a trap. In one instance, a resident was most upset as he hadn’t caught anything for a number of days!

Map showing trap density in Plimmerton.

Map showing trap density in Plimmerton

The group plans to place five Goodnature A24 self setting traps in ‘hot spots’. These are areas which may have a greater density of pests and the self-setting traps mean less work checking and rebaiting. However, the tunnel traps are proving effective for residential trapping providing they are checked regularly. They provide very visible results which is often not the case with A24s, where kills may be predated by other animals before they can be counted.

Goodnature A24 self setting traps.

Goodnature A24 self setting traps

They have a plan to involve local schools and DOC has contributed some resources to get this started. It’s hoped this will encourage kids to get on board with raising awareness, getting students active in monitoring, checking traps and notifying what has been caught. Local businesses are also on board and checking their own traps.

The end game for Plimmerton? “To be pest free within a year and have a noticeable increase in birds and lizards” says Linda. With the results so far this will be reached sooner rather than later.

From the rugged west coast beaches, to the majestic kauri forest and the picture-perfect white sand vistas, Northland is a draw card for nature and summer lovers.  Wherever your Northland adventure may take you, the below tips will help protect our taonga.

Urupukapuka Island. Photo: DOC

Stay on the tracks to protect kauri

Kauri are one of our unique taonga, but they’re being killed by kauri dieback disease. It can be spread by just a pinhead of soil, and humans are the number one way in which the disease is spread.

Tane Mahuta. Photo: itravelNZ (CC by 2.0)

Tane Mahuta. Photo: itravelNZ (CC by 2.0)

There are simple actions we can all take, to save kauri for future generations to enjoy:

kauri-cleaning-station

Protect our kauri by using the cleaning stations and sticking to the tracks. Photo: DOC

  • Clean all soil off your footwear and other gear, every time you enter or leave a forest area with native trees, and at every cleaning station.
  • Stay on the tracks and avoid walking over kauri roots.
  • If an area has been closed or is protected by a rahui, don’t use it.

Find out more about the disease and how you can help here.

Keep your eye out for Myrtle Rust

Myrtle Rust is a fungal disease that severely attacks plants in the myrtle family including pōhutukawa, mānuka and rātā. It is now in New Zealand and may be spreading in Northland.

If you think you’ve spotted Myrtle Rust, take a photo, don’t touch, and report any suspicious plants to 0800 80 99 66.

Check your gear before visiting offshore islands

Otehei Bay, Urupukapuka Island. Photo: Andy Rogers (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Otehei Bay, Urupukapuka Island. Photo: Andy Rogers (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Summer is the time to hear the birdsong coming back to Northland’s offshore islands, note by note. Many of these islands are now pest-free – and we want to keep it this way!

If you’re visiting an offshore island please check and seal.

  • Check – your gear, including boats, kayaks, clothes, bags for pests,
  • Seal – make sure your gear and food is zipped up (no open bags)

More information on visiting these islands can be found here. If you see any small animal footprints on pest-free island beaches call us 0800 DOC HOT.

Give marine mammals their space

It’s great to share our coast with marine mammals like dolphins, whales and seals, but we need to give them space – in the water, in the air and on the shore. Watch them from a distance and stay away from all mother and baby dolphins and whales.

  • Give whales, dolphins and seals space
  • Watch them from a distance and enjoy them being themselves – resting and feeding
  • Leave whale and dolphin mothers and calves alone, if you see a baby dolphin or whale, stay well clear.

The Bay of Islands is also lucky to have bottlenose dolphins and visitors love seeing them. To ensure their safety, give bottlenose dolphins a break from all boats between 11.30am – 1.30pm daily.

If you see anyone getting too close or moving too fast near whales and dolphins, signal for them to move away or slow down and, if the animal is at risk, call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).

Be a responsible dog owner

no-dog-sign

NO DOGS. Please be a responsible dog owner. Photo: DOC

Kiwi are New Zealand’s unique taonga, but they are under threat. In Northland most kiwi deaths are caused by dogs not under control. Kiwi can live just about anywhere, even in people’s backyards and under houses so, when away from home, please remember that you and your dog may be holidaying in a kiwi area.

Here are simple things you can do to help protect our national treasure, the kiwi:

  • Remember that any dog, including pets, can kill kiwi.
  • Look after our native wildlife by taking your dog only to approved dog areas.
  • Keep your dog indoors or secured at night.
  • When outdoors, keep your dog under control, preferably on a lead at all times.
  • If a track sign says “No dogs”, please walk your dog somewhere else.

And, if you see a dog not under control, ring the local Council dog ranger. A guide to where you can take your dogs on public conservation lands, and the conditions of access can be found here.


With your help this summer, we can keep our precious taonga safe. For information of outdoor activities in Northland, visit our website: www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/northland/.

Volunteers are at the heart of the community effort to protect native birds on the Devonport peninsula. National Volunteer Advisor Chris Charles tells us about the great work volunteers in the community are undertaking to keep native birds safe from predators.

Volunteer Jim with a recent catch.

The charming seaside community of Devonport is known for its picturesque houses, enticing tātahi (beaches) and two imposing maunga (mountains). What is perhaps less known, is that the peninsula has a thriving community of land, shore and migratory birds – many which are found only in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf. But these birds are under threat from introduced mammalian species such as rats and mice. Volunteers are at the heart of the community effort to protect nature on the peninsula.

The peninsula is part of the North-West Wildlink, a vital corridor for native birds to fly back and forth from the Waitakere Ranges, in the west, to the sanctuary of the pest-free islands in the Hauraki Gulf. Ridding the peninsula of pests has received support from Auckland Council, Devonport-Takapuna Local Board, the Environmental Network, Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, Restoring Takarunga Hauraki/Pest Free Devonport, the Devonport Peninsula Trust, the Tūpuna Maunga Authority as well as our own staff.

Maungauika/North Head is at the northern headland of the Waitemata Harbour.  The imposing volcanic cone is an important Māori Pa site as well as a European military fort. Community volunteers have started an ambitious programme to control invasive predators in a densely urbanised part of Auckland through a comprehensive trapping network as well as ridding the area of introduced weeds.

A young volunteer watches Biodiversity Ranger Carol Nanning open a trap.

The regular group of 15 volunteers is calling itself the Maungauika Trappers, supported by our rangers, they are ridding Maungauika/North Head of predators. They check trap lines twice weekly and have successfully removed more than 80 rats and many, many mice. Any fresh rats are given to our Conservation Dogs team on site at Maungauika to help with training. They are also working to monitor their own success using tracking tunnels.

A combination of Victor rat traps in tunnels as well as ‘DOC 200s’ circling the base of the maunga and running up to the tihi/summit (trap lines), have proven very successful since the project launched in late 2017.

The volunteer group is a mixture of ages and backgrounds, some of whom reside in Devonport with others coming from different parts of the city. Members are motivated by the impact a pest-free peninsular can have on the rest of the city and helping grow the Pest Free Auckland movement. The volunteers have faced challenges with the vandalism of traps as the maunga is such a highly visited public site, but their perseverance is amazing.

Beyond benefits for the community of increased bird life, another positive outcome has been the three volunteers who have found work with us – two locally in Auckland, at Okura Bush Reserve and Rangitoto, and a third who has joined our Trainee Ranger course in Nelson. There is a long away to go to make Devonport peninsular predator and weed free – but this conscientious group of volunteers working on Maungauika/North Head is making a huge difference.