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Minister goes possum hunting to mark Arbor Day

5 June 2001 (for immediate release) Media Statement

Conservation Minister goes possum hunting to mark Arbor Day


Conservation Minister Sandra Lee is marking Arbor Day today (Tuesday 5 June) by joining a possum hunt on Waiheke Island, while also announcing new funding to wage war on possums and other animal pests, and weeds.

"I am joining one of several groups that have been trawling the bush near Rocky Bay on Waiheke after five sightings of what we believe is a single possum," Ms Lee said. "We are all concerned because this is one of the Hauraki Gulf islands that has been designated possum-free.

"I and my Department are pleased to learn that New Zealanders throughout the country are planting trees to mark Arbor Day, " she said. "We are also trying to raise awareness of the fact that every night an estimated 70 million possums chew their way through 21,000 tonnes of choice green shoots, fruits, berries and leaves in our native forests."

Since 1977, New Zealand has marked Arbor Day on 5 June which is also World Environment Day.

Ms Lee today also released basic funding details on DOC weed and pest control and eradication projects in the 2001-2002 year. The new funding is part of the Government’ s on-going commitment to the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy.

“Funding to implement year two of the Biodiversity Strategy includes $3,863,967 for about 60 animal pest control and eradication programmes to be carried out by the Department of Conservation in the 2001-2002 year," Ms Lee said. "It also includes $1,652,400 for DOC to start about 100 similar programmes to attack weeds .

“It is far more cost effective and easier to control or eradicate some pests and weeds now, rather than face a significantly more expensive task in 10 years time. The earlier improvements are made, the more our endangered birds, species and plants, will be able to flourish,” Ms Lee said.

“One example of a comprehensive programme is the pest and weed control to take place on the 163,000 hectares of Stewart Island land that will become Rakiura National Park. Possums and Darwin’s Barberry in particular will bear the brunt of increased measures to protect the conservation treasures on this land.”

“Wilding pines like Contorta pine will be also targeted in the 2001-2002 year. These pines have the potential to turn ungrazed grasslands into forest, threatening the rare black stilt and other species like open country lizards. An assessment of these pines in the Twizel region showed that they would lead to something like 80 per cent domination of the local canopy within 50 years if left unchecked.

Ms Lee said wild goat control funding would be spent in areas where their numbers were expanding. This included an East Coast control programme and a Great Barrier Island pest eradication initiative.


ENDS

Copies of the publication Possum: everybody's problem are available from conservancy offices of the Department of Conservation.


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