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Joint possum control to benefit Kahurangi National Park

Joint possum control to benefit Kahurangi National Park

A Motueka conservation group, TBfree New Zealand and the Department of Conservation (DOC) are working together to gain maximum benefits from possum control operations in the eastern reaches of Kahurangi National Park.

TBfree New Zealand is planning large-scale possum control in the area this spring to prevent bovine tuberculosis (TB) infected possums from spreading the disease to neighbouring cattle and deer herds.

Friends of Flora and DOC will contribute additional funds and on-the-ground help so pest control can be extended across a further 1600 hectares in support of the predator trapping work aimed at protecting native wildlife. In recent years, threatened native species, such as great spotted kiwi (roroa) and blue duck (whio), have been released in the area to re-establish their population.

The TB possum control programme will involve the aerial application of bait containing biodegradable sodium fluoroacetate (1080) in about 23,000 hectares of the national park and some neighbouring forestry blocks. The operational area is from the upper Takaka and Barron area across to the Flora Saddle, Mt Campbell and the upper Riwaka.

Friends of Flora spokesperson Maryann Ewers said it made perfect sense to extend the possum control operation to cover the area where volunteers have been undertaking predator control and the recovery of native species.

“We know that, as well as being effective for possum control, operations using biodegradable 1080 will give us a good knockdown of rat and stoats,” said Ms Ewers.

“This will support our trapping efforts and further protect native birds through the coming nesting season. We see real benefits in extending this operation into our area of interest.”

Friends of Flora have been fortunate to receive funding from sponsors to put towards the operation. “We can get the best value out of these funds by using them to extend the wider TB control operation,” said Ms Ewers.

DOC Motueka Area Manager Martin Rodd said the department will also contribute funding and DOC staff, along with Friends of Flora volunteers, would help check tracks, huts and warning signs during the operation.

TBfree New Zealand Programme Manager Matthew Hickson is pleased to be working alongside Friends of Flora and DOC.

“While our main focus is on protecting the local farming industry from bovine TB, we are committed to getting maximum conservation benefits from this work as well. The project is a great opportunity for us all,” said Mr Hickson.

The aerial operations are likely to be carried out in September or October, subject to gaining the required consents and depending on the weather.

Mr Hickson said the operation’s contractors have visited neighbouring and affected land occupiers to discuss the programme and ensure all necessary safety measures are in place.

Further public notification and signposting will take place upon the confirmation of dates for the operation. Mr Hickson said members of the public need to be aware of the risk to dogs from eating baits or scavenging poisoned possums.

“Dog owners need to take serious notice of the warning signs which will be erected at each major access point to the operational areas. They should keep their pets well clear of these areas,” said Mr Hickson.

Most of the area involved is national park where dogs are prohibited without special permission from DOC.


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