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Rat traps and weta hotels help wildlife at Hahei

By Kate Guthrie for Predator Free New Zealand Trust

On any one day over summer there can be 1500 holiday-makers resident at the Hahei Holiday Resort in the Coromandel. General Manager, Grant Kilby describes it as being “a cruise ship on land”. And just like any ocean-going cruise ship, there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to make sure that everyone’s holiday is as idyllic, happy and healthy as possible.

Take refuse for example: 1500 people picnicking and barbecuing could potentially be a magnet for neighbourhood rodents.

“We have to be very careful about refuse control,” says Grant. “Rubbish is collected daily and taken off site and rodents have been controlled here for many years.”

When the resort was taken over in 2015, Grant saw an opportunity to extend predator control beyond the holiday resort basics of making sure rodents don’t make themselves at home with the campers.

“We talked about predator control with our staff from the very beginning,” Grant says. “It was a chance for us to form a relationship with staff, our community, the local reserves group and DOC. Our neighbours are actively trapping goats, stoats and possums. We’re mainly focussed on rodents but have got a lot more aggressive about it, working with both Rentokil and the Hahei Reserves Group which is made up of local farmer volunteers.”

Hahei is a large coastal resort of about 7.5 hectares, bordered by the Wigmore Stream on one side with a large dunes area at the front – great habitat for both wildlife and pests. There’s also a lot of bush and DOC land around the wider Hahei area. Both DOC 200 and Goodnature self-resetting traps are used around the resort, with Rentokil using their own kill-traps and baits.

“Our traps are about 50 metres along the beach-front on the fringe of the resort,” says Grant. “In part we have a self-serving goal of keeping our resort rodent and pest free, but equally it’s about sustainability. It’s about managing our asset in the best way we can with regard to the environment.”

Grant believes their efforts are making a difference.

“We don’t get many possums now,” he says, “but in the early days we did. There are still a few rogue water rats though, and they get bolder every year.”

The good news is, the wildlife is getting bolder too.

“We’ve noticed Kaka coming down for the first time in years – they’re right through the resort,” says Grant. “And Kereru are down in the resort for the first time too, which is cool. It’s the upside of control when you start to see the wildlife come back.”

Grant has also had huge support from his local DOC office.

“DOC have been fabulous,” he says.

Local DOC rangers have even been recruited to help out in the resort’s holiday programmes for children.

“I’m keen on developing educational resources on coastal erosion and predator control,” Grant says. “DOC came through last year and made weta hotels for the kids programme in the holidays. Groups of about 20 children at a time made the weta hotels and painted and decorated them with sparkles and so on. They took about 2 hours to build, then another group of children would come through. About 200-250 children in total made weta hotels to take home.”

Grant is hoping the benefits of the holiday activities will reach beyond the take-home Weta hotel however.“When they’re taking part, the kids start to understand and have a conversation with the rangers about predator control. Hopefully they’ll do predator control at home. Or they’ll go back to school and talk to others about what they did in the holidays. It’s the ‘butterfly effect’ of getting others involved,” he explains. “I’d encourage other resorts to run educational programmes too.”

He also credits others in the tourism industry for their inspiring influence on his own efforts.

“I’ve been learning a lot from James at Canopy Tours Rotorua,” he says.

Grant firmly believes that small changes can make a bird difference.

“You can see it in the birdlife coming back. The dotterels down on the beach have had a successful breeding season with lots of dotterel chicks running about. You wouldn’t have that success with stoats and rats around,” he says.


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