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Waiheke to become world’s first predator-free urban island

Waiheke to become world’s first predator-free urban island

Waiheke is on track to become the world’s first predator-free urban island, following an exciting initiative launched on the island today.

Te Korowai o Waiheke: Towards Predator-Free Waiheke brings together community groups, local and central government. It has secured substantial funding under the umbrella Trust organisation that aims to rid the island of mustelids and rats, to enhance the natural environment of this Hauraki Gulf haven and support the archipelago of pest-free islands.

The $10.9 million budget will cover a five to seven year programme on Waiheke, which will start eradicating stoats in 2019 and have rats in its sights across 25% of the island during 2020. After that, the aim is to expand the programme island-wide. Waiheke is already possum-free.

Major funding is being provided by Auckland Council (including $2.85 million from the natural environment targeted fund), Predator Free 2050 Limited ($2.6 million) and Foundation North ($875,000). Other funds, current services and in-kind support is coming from community groups, existing DOC and Auckland Council programmes, and Waiheke landowners.

Launched on the island today at Piritahi Marae, Te Korowai o Waiheke will involve a wide range of interests brought together under the Waiheke Collective, including Ngāti Paoa, Auckland Council, Hauraki Gulf Conservation Trust, Forest & Bird, QEII National Trust, DOC, Waiheke Resources Trust, and other local conservation organisations and individuals. Today is also the first anniversary of the volunteer-led Waiheke Collective coming together to enhance the biodiversity of Waiheke.

Predator Free champion and Waiheke landowner Sir Rob Fenwick, who has been undertaking pest control on his own land for many years, said: “Waiheke is already a jewel in the Auckland region’s crown and it will become an even greater taonga once it is the world’s first populated, urban island to be predator free.

“Due to the community’s ongoing efforts, northern kākā have recently returned and there have been unofficial sightings of kakariki. With the programme we’re launching today, other bird species expected to return or increase in number include kereru, tui, bellbird, piwakawaka, grey-faced petrel, NZ dotterel, little blue penguins, shore plover, bittern and spotted shag. One of the aspects that makes Te Korowai o Waiheke different is that our efforts will help both land and sea birds.”

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage told the 300 guests: “The Waiheke project is a wonderful example of how agencies and the community are working together to reduce predators with the goal of freeing New Zealand of possums, rats and stoats.

“A predator-free Waiheke will see the return of native birds from neighbouring predator-free islands such as Motuihe, Motutapu and Rangitoto. We are already starting to see this happen with the recent return of North Island kākā to Waiheke.”

Mayor Phil Goff said Auckland Council is committed to restoring our native bush and protecting our native birds from extinction. “We have made fantastic progress in replanting our Gulf Islands with native trees and growing our endangered bird numbers such as takahē, kiwi and kokako.

“Our ambition is now to make our first urban island, Waiheke, predator free and restore the bird life that once populated the island. As a result of Aucklanders’ commitment to a targeted rate, we will be investing $2.85 million for predator eradication on Waiheke Island. This will be a gift from our generation to our children and grandchildren,” he said.

Predator Free 2050 Limited CEO Ed Chignell said Waiheke was the fourth project to receive backing from Predator Free 2050 Limited. “This will add extra magic to the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park and marks a significant step in the journey to a predator-free New Zealand.”


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