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Volunteers Hit The “baddies” So The Good Guys Can Survive

It’s Conservation Week this week, and all over the Western Bay of Plenty volunteers are out in all weather laying traps and ensuring native birds and flora can survive.

Conservation volunteer John Rowlandson spends hours each week trapping “the baddies” - stoats, possums, rats, feral cats - to protect his favourite place, The Blade at the end of Whakamārama Road, 24km northwest of Tauranga.

He’s a member of Friends of the Blade, a volunteer group formed to develop a pest-free zone around the Pā Kererū walking track and the rest area. The area is named after a massive bulldozer blade that was left behind from one of the rimu mills from early last century.

More than 40 volunteers visit all the trap lines about every fortnight to record dead pests, re-bait and reset the traps.

John got involved when he met people in the community who were already involved, so he went along to see what was about. That was about six years ago. He loves being outdoors, and hitting predators to give the native wildlife a fighting chance.

“If we can get rid of the baddies then we can get the good guys to thrive,” he says. It’s working too.

“There’s no question the birdlife is vastly improved - so many more kereru, tūī, bellbirds, robins and fantails than there were five or six years ago.

“It’s satisfying to see results and that we’re making a difference. If we weren’t seeing the results, catching the baddies wouldn’t be as motivating, but we can see we’re making a difference.”

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He previously worked in IT, but always loved the bush and fresh air so he says he’d be up there every couple of weeks anyway. By volunteering he can enjoy the outdoors and do something that provides a bonus by making a difference.

“Some of these areas we’re trapping are off the beaten track so you feel like you’re looking after your own space where no one ever goes. Some of our volunteers are very proud of their traplines.

“It’s also good to run into people on the tracks who appreciate what we’re doing and can see the difference we’re making.”

Anyone interested in volunteering with Friends of the Blade can go to www.volunteeringservices.org.nz/volunteer-opportunities or on the Friends’ website www.friendsoftheblade.org.nz

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