A predator-free NZ

Stuff reports:

The Government wants to make New Zealand predator-free by 2050, formally adopting a target to eradicate all pests that threaten New Zealand’s native birds. 

Prime Minister John Key announced the goal, alongside Minister Maggie Barry, as well as a $28 million funding injection into a joint venture company to kickstart the campaign. 

“Rats, possums and stoats kill 25 million of our native birds every year, and prey on other native species such as lizards and, along with the rest of our environment, we must do more to protect them,” Key said. …

By 2025, the Government has set four interim goals, which include:

• Having 1 million hectares of land where pests are suppressed or removed; 
• The development of a scientific breakthrough, capable of removing entirely one small mammalian predator;
• To be able demonstrate that areas of 20,000 hectares can be predator free without the use of fences like the one at at Wellington’s Zealandia sanctuary; 
• And the complete removal of all introduced predators from offshore island nature reserves. 

Introduced pests threatened the economy and primary sector, their total economic cost is estimated at about $3.3 billion a year, Key said.

“This is the most ambitious conservation project attempted anywhere in the world, but we believe if we all work together as a country we can achieve it.”

The Government has set up a new Crown Entity – Predator Free New Zealand Limited – to drive the programme alongside the private sector. 

That was on top of $60m to $80m already invested in pest control each year. 

This is a great initiative. I became aware of the proposal around two or three years ago and my first reaction was that you can’t achieve it – it only take one pregnant rat or stoat to reinfect an area. But if you go about it in a systematic way over two or three decades, it can be achieved. The cost is not insignificant – $10 billion or so. But over 20+ years that is a very good investment to make NZ predator-free.

Being lucky enough to live near Zealandia, I already see and enjoy the benefits of having some small areas safe for native birds. Extending this to all of New Zealand will really transform our country. Of course there will still be other predators (including humans) but rats, stoats, possums and ferrets kill 25 million birds a year and massively outweigh all other threats.

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce said New Zealand would prove itself a world leader in conservation science and technology. 

“For the first time, technology is starting to make feasible what previously seemed like an unattainable dream.

“I think what’s really exciting is for those of us watching this closely, is that the technology has moved dramatically,” Joyce said.

“You used to have to put out a trap line across an area of land and send people back every time the traps were sprung.

“Now you can set them and leave them, link them through GPS, it’s about one seventeenth of the cost to maintain predator control over a piece of land, than it was just a few years ago.”

Barry said target was considered unachievable until recently. 

The potential for scientific break-through’s were what made the target achievable. 

Yep it has become achievable.

Green Party conservation spokesman Kevin Hague said welcomed the target, but said research showed it would cost $9b to make New Zealand predator-free. 

“The Government seems happy to once again put out the begging bowl to the private sector to fund what should be taken care of by the Government.

Hague seems to think it is wrong to seek private sector support. Far from wrong, it is preferable to do so. Many companies would love the opportunity to invest in this initiative, which helps their brand.

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