The suburbs of Porirua City, north of Wellington, have a been a hotbed of pest trapping action since the first predator-free suburb launched there in May 2016.
Locals collect their traps at the Predator Free Titahi Bay launch last month. Photo: Angus Hulme-Moir/DOC
The city is one of many leading the charge toward Predator Free 2050. The combined trapping groups have now surpassed 500 households across six suburbs and one marae. Last month, Titahi Bay resident Dave Sutherland launched his suburb’s attack on pests.
“People love Titahi Bay because it has both natural beauty and a great connection between neighbours. Pest Free Titahi Bay is an idea that can improve them both. By working together we can bring back the birds, ” said Dave.
A young trapper transports his new equipment home. Photo: Angus Hulme-Moir/DOC
After attending the Titahi Bay launch, Whitby local John Lambert put his hand up to start a group in his suburb, and plans to launch it next month.
Titahi Bay and Whitby join Plimmerton, Mana/Cambourne, Papakowhai, Golden Gate and Pukerua Bay which each have a predator-free community organiser supplying traps and advice to their neighbours on how to control pests in their backyards. The trapping communities are supported by local DOC and Porirua City Council staff.
The suburbs under predator control around Porirua harbour are steadily growing
Pest-Free Plimmerton organisers Heather Evans, Linda Kerkmeester and Lee McLauchlan started the city’s first pest-free suburb a year ago. Linda says householders are seeing declining rat numbers and more fantails, silvereyes and tūī in their backyards.
Silvereye. Photo: Shellie Evans
“If we can protect the entire Porirua harbour edge from pests, we will see native birds and lizards spill-over from refuges like Pauatahanui Wildlife Reserve.”
Just a few suburbs remain un-trapped in the quest to protect the harbour edge and Linda is calling for more locals to step up.
If anyone in Paremata, Elsdon and Pauatahanui is keen to plug these gaps, get in touch on email, firstname.lastname@example.org, so we can help get you started.
Ahuahu-Great Mercury Island is pest-free, although privately owned. It’s the only island in the Mercury Island archipelago (group) accessible to the public.
The seven Mercury islands are home to a large population of native species including geckos, skinks, giant tusked wētā, tuatara, kākā, kākāriki, New Zealand dotterel, recently arrived pāteke, a plethora of seabirds and 50 species of native land snails.
Pateke have self-reintroduced since the cat and rat eradication in 2014. 📷: Pete Corson
Because Ahuahu-Great Mercury Island is so close to the other islands in the archipelago, DOC and the owners of the other islands are working together to control the ants.
The work of eradicating the ants and keeping the islands free of them also requires an army of volunteers.
The work is ongoing and poses many new challenges. It requires some serious person power as well as constant vigilance.
Collaboration is the key to conservation success, and working with influencers, partners and stakeholders is crucial.
This summer the island has had 45 volunteers giving their time to lay bait, monitor areas and collect data.
Volunteers helping to eradicate Argentine ants from Great Mercury Island. 📷: Pete Corson
In total this summer there have been 435 volunteer days on the project. Locals are getting involved and encouraging others to do so as well, whether it’s volunteering, treating their properties or spreading awareness of the problem.
Ant eradication also needs Conservation Dogs, who sniff out the ants and sit down when they find them. Veto is an Argentine ant dog in training.
Conservation Dog Veto. 📷: Pete Corson
The Conservation Dogs programme is supported by Kiwibank.
Pest-free islands in New Zealand make up 1.2% of New Zealand’s land area but protect more than half of our threatened birds and more than a third of our threatened reptiles. There are strict biosecurity measures in place to make sure pests don’t hitch a ride with visitors.
It’s imperative that visitors check their gear, boats and luggage for pests including ants or rodents. We all have a role to play in staying safe and protecting Aotearoa.
A good tip is to load boats during daylight hours so night time pests don’t sneak in after you have checked the boat and gear.
The goal is to make sure unwanted pests aren’t visiting the island too and our special islands stay safe for the native species living there.
If left untreated Argentine ants have the potential to dominate all of the ecosystem through monopolising food resources, interrupting pollination, and predation by killing reptiles and bird chicks.
New Zealand is the only country that has ever had a successful eradication of Argentine ants – on the 12ha Tiritiri Matangi Island.
Bait is laid for Argentine ants to take back to the queen. 📷: Paul Craddock
Other projects are underway at Kawau Island and Great Barrier Island. The Ahuahu project is the biggest in New Zealand.
With hard work and persistence, we hope the Argentine ant will become part of the island’s history, not its future.
Come behind the scenes and into the jobs and personalities of the people who work at DOC. Today we’re profiling Kataraina (Kata), an Interpretation Ranger based on Urupukapuka Island, Bay of Islands.
What an office! Kata and Kyla at Otehei Bay, Urupukapuka Island
Tell us about your role and how it contributes to conservation in Aotearoa…
It’s been a great experience for me being able to talk with the public about marine life and island restoration. I have the knowledge, but in the past have found it difficult to pass it on, doing this job has opened me up more.
I love educating people, especially the little kids and seeing their ‘wow!’ faces.
Caring for Aotearoa fills me with joy, as I’m helping it to be there for the next generation. It’s a way of me connecting to Aotearoa’s past life.
When I listen to the birds they talk to me and I talk to them – it’s a bit like having a yarn! Being tangata whenua means I have this connection to the land. This is more than just a job, it goes deeper than the roots.
Kata with visitors to the Otehei Bay Conservation Centre
What visitor behaviours do you see in your day-to-day job that make a big positive difference to your work?
I love the way the visitors are always asking questions. This gives me the chance to help them understand about the place they have come to and how they can protect it.
What visitor behaviours would you like to see less of?
I haven’t seen much negative behaviour, luckily! But the one I have seen is people bringing dogs onto the island, late at night.
Kyla and Kata checking the catch traps at Otehei Bay, Urupukapuka Island
The number one piece of wisdom you’d like to share with visitors (both kiwi and international) is…
Ko te manu e kai ana i te miro, nōna te ngahere. Engari, ko te manu e kai ana i te mātauranga, nōna te ao.
The bird that feeds on the miro tree owns the forest. The bird that feeds on the knowledge owns the world.
In Aotearoa New Zealand we have a way we like to do things. We call it the Kiwi way.
Whether you’re a local, or you’re here on holiday, we all have a shared responsibility to look after this awesome place. From the mountains to the sea, and all places in between where we care for taonga no matter its size: www.doc.govt.nz/visit-the-kiwi-way