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Kermadec Islands close to being pest free

25 August 2006

Kermadec Islands close to being pest free

An operation to eradicate the last introduced pests from the Kermadec Islands has been successfully completed, Conservation Minister Chris Carter announced today from the navy vessel Te Mana.

"This is a major achievement for the Department of Conservation and its staff. The Kermadecs are located over 1000 km northeast of Auckland, and as the terrible death of a DOC worker demonstrated this year, the islands are difficult and dangerous," Mr Carter said.

"In 2002, the Department of Conservation successfully completed a $1m campaign to eradicate rats and cats from Raoul Island, which at 2941ha is the largest island in the Kermadec group.

"Today, I can announce that DOC has just completed a second pest eradication campaign to remove rats from the 282ha Macauley Island, also in the Kermadec group. If, as expected, we find no rats on Macauley Island in the next two years, we will have successfully removed the last introduced mammals from the Kermadecs, significantly elevating the area's status as a nature reserve."

The Kermadecs are home to 23 plant species and five bird species that are found nowhere else in the world. The island group is currently being considered for nomination as a World Heritage Area, but up until now its importance has been undermined by the presence of goats, cats, kiore, and Norway rats following European settlement in the nineteenth century.

"The impact of removing pests from these islands is profound," Mr Carter said.

"Until recently the Kermadec hebe was thought to be down to a single plant on Raoul Island, the Kermadec kakariki (parakeet) was evicted from the island completely, and seabirds, such as the black-winged petrel, had not nested there in decades.

"Since pests were removed the Kermadec hebe is producing seedlings, the kakariki has returned to the island's forests, and several seabird species are again raising chicks on the island. We would expect to see similar results on Macauley Island," Mr Carter said.

Editor's Note:

Mr Carter is in the Kermadec Islands to highlight DOC's achievement in the area, and participate in a memorial ceremony for Mark Kearney, the DOC worker killed on Raoul Island in March.

ENDS

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