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Rabbit control has protected rare dune plants

Rabbit control has helped to protect rare dune plants

A major offensive to control rabbits along the Bay of Plenty’s coastline has helped ensure the survival of young, and often endangered, native dune plants.

Environment Bay of Plenty and the region’s coastal district councils set up the operation to protect plants put in by Coast Care volunteers over winter. They contracted EcoFX Pest Solutions Ltd to lay rabbit control bait at a number of locations from Waihi Beach to Opape in the eastern Bay of Plenty. Environment Bay of Plenty pest animal officer David Paine says the project was very successful, with rabbit numbers falling enough to give the young plants a chance to grow. A follow-up operation next autumn will boost that protection further.

Coast Care coordinator Greg Jenks says good rabbit control is vital to successful planting. “If we don’t control the rabbits, we can’t restore these near-extinct native dune plants – so it is very important work.”

In a year or two, Mr Jenks hopes the dune plants will be mature enough to stay safe on their own. In many cases, they may simply grow too tall for the pests to reach. “There is evidence of that but we don’t know for sure because we’re pioneers in this work and don’t have other research to refer to,” he explains.

Coast Care Bay of Plenty volunteers planted nearly 40,000 native dune plants this winter to help strengthen the region’s sand dunes. Exposed sand is rapidly carried away by wind and lost from the beach system. “So dunes must be covered in vegetation - preferably native – if they are to be most effective in helping to protect the coastline,” Mr Jenks says.

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