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Community Pest Control Areas Popular

Date: 08 September, 2011

Community Pest Control Areas Popular

A scheme designed to support local communities wanting to control plant and animal pests themselves is proving increasingly popular, with hundreds of Northlanders signing up more than 33,000 hectares of private land.

The Northland Regional Council introduced Community Pest Control Areas (CPCA) in 2005 with a farmer-led project to control predators over 4000 hectares of Oneriri Peninsula on the Kaipara Harbour.

Six years on there are now 36 plans targeting pest ants, animals and weeds, the regional council’s Biosecurity Senior Programme Manager Don McKenzie says.

“These represent more than 800 owners and cover 33,175 hectares of private land involving individuals, community trusts and Maori shareholder land.”

Mr McKenzie says demand over the past couple of months has also been strong with one new community plan under way and two more about to be confirmed.

He says CPCA are designed to run for five years and involve a gradually reducing level of financial assistance from the regional council.

The council’s operational budget for CPCA during the current 2010-2011 financial year is about $500,000, about half of which will be spent on new plans. (The balance covers maintenance of existing schemes and monitoring.)

“Demand now outstrips the available budget and this trend is predicted to continue as awareness of the scheme’s benefits grows. New, more advanced pest control tools are also becoming more effective, making ongoing community maintenance of the projects more cost-efficient and less labour intensive.”

Mr McKenzie says the beauty of the CPCA scheme is that it allows people to identify areas in their own communities they feel deserve protecting, the pests they want to target and the level to which they want to control them.

In the first year of a CPCA scheme, the regional council typically meets all the costs of work to reduce pests to a manageable level, as well as training landowners in pest management techniques.

In the second and third years, landowners assume more responsibility and need to provide the necessary labour, but the regional council still supplies free poisons, traps and herbicides.

In the fourth and fifth years of the scheme, the council meets part of the costs of those poisons, traps and herbicides with the landowners meeting the remainder.

After that, landowners control pests to an agreed level at their own cost.

Mr McKenzie predicts that by 2015 at least 50 CPCA will be operating in Northland, together with a growing list of projects run by agencies such as the Kiwi Foundation, the QEII Trust and private landcare groups involved in restoring natural habitat.

“It has become apparent over the last two years that Maori landowners also wish to participate in the CPCA scheme and three new plans involving different Maori landowner groups are also underway.”

Mr McKenzie says the council’s Regional Pest Management Strategies specifically tag parts of Northland as worthy of CPCA support due to strong levels of community interest, those areas’ successful histories of pest control and their high natural values.

“These include areas at Whangarei Heads, others in the Bay of Islands and at Oneriri in the Kaipara, where pest control efforts are coordinated across large landscapes of several thousand hectares, including peninsulas.”

Mr McKenzie says landowners within those high priority sites report a number of positive benefits from CPCA participation including increases in kiwi numbers, greater flowering of possum-susceptible trees like pohutukawa and a general increase in birdlife.

He says a big challenge of habitat restoration projects which target pest animals is the ability to sustain the resourcing and effort needed to maintain low predator numbers once a CPCA plan comes to an end.

“Many community plans controlling possums or weeds over a few hundred hectares are set up to continue the maintenance work as the effort required in those cases is relatively low. However, community plans which span several thousand hectares or target pest species such as mustelids require an ongoing, regular investment of labour and these require a different approach.”

Mr McKenzie says in the latter cases, other agencies (like the QEII National Trust, the World Wildlife Fund, the government’s Biodiversity Condition Fund, industry and private sponsors) must be approached to help resource beyond the term of the plan.

As an example, he says the community involved in the Whangarei Heads predator control plan has now been established for more than a decade.

“But although regional council funding will stop in 2016, group members plan to use the next five years to work with other agencies and private sponsors to secure funding out to 2020.”

Mr McKenzie says overall, he is positive that real progress is being made to tackle pest plants and animals in Northland.

“We may not have won the war yet, but we’re definitely winning some significant battles. Sustainable pest management is best led by communities who are in touch with the land and their neighbours…they hold the key to a pest-free future. Our role as a regional council is to help this happen.”

He says people interested in Community Pest Control Areas can contact council biosecurity staff on (0800) 002 004 for information or visit council’s website via: www.nrc.govt.nz/cpca


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