Here are our responses to some of our frequently asked questions
- Why is Predator Free 2050 so important?
Many of our native birds are flightless, nocturnal and have slow breeding rates. Birds like kiwi, kakapo, kōkako, kākā, kereru, toutouwai, tīeke and species of native bats, reptiles, snails and insects cannot co-exist with the introduced possums, mustelids, and rats.
Because New Zealand evolved with no land mammals besides bats, our native birds never learnt to protect themselves from predators. These predators:
- Outcompete native species for food and habitat
- Eat native bird eggs and kill chicks (less than 5% of kiwi reach their first birthday)
- Eat native vegetation, slowing growth and stopping the production of forests
- Have forced many native birds – 59 to date – into extinction
- Cause damage to agriculture and forestry
- What are the project’s environmental objectives?
- For our native life – including many threatened and endemic birds, bats, invertebrates, and plants – to thrive
- For tens of thousands of hectares of Northland’s forest and coastal habitats to be protected and restored
- What are the project’s social, cultural and economic objectives?
- Northlanders are inspired, supported and enabled to undertake predator control in their backyards
- Local hapū and iwi are supported and enabled to exercise kaitiakitanga over their whenua
- New education, training and employment opportunities are created
- Contribution to the success of the national Predator Free 2050 initiative
- How are the project partners contributing?
All our project partners bring a wide range of valuable expertise to the project. For example:
- Department of Conservation provides technical expertise in predator eradication and control tools and methods
- Local community conservation groups bring a highly successful, motivated collection of people on the ground with awesome local knowledge and established credibility in the community
- PF2050Ltd brings advice and support to achieve project outcomes
- How does Predator Free Whangārei fit in with existing mahi?
This project is made possible through the support and efforts of Whangārei’s community conservation groups. We are working alongside these groups to extend and intensify their efforts in several ways:
- Coordinate existing efforts to align with common goals
- Work in partnership to achieve the objectives of the project
- Endeavour to secure funding beyond the five-year scope to support existing efforts and expand
- What are the outcomes for the community?
There are so many awesome outcomes from this project for the community, including:
- The building of connections with people coming together to get out and enjoy nature
- Employment and training opportunities
- An increase in community participation in conservation-related activities
- The return of taonga species and fauna to our backyards
- A stronger understanding of Matauranga Māori
- Preservation of our ecosystems – strengthening the district’s tourism industry and benefiting small businesses
- Reduced spread of diseases, such as leptospirosis and tuberculosis
- How will you measure success?
We will measure the success of this project in several ways:
- Community engagement and involvement rates
- Data collection and analysis
- Intensive detection network and timely responses to predator sightings
- Statistical modelling in partnership with Manaaki Whenua/Landcare Research and PF2050Ltd
- Biodiversity outcome monitoring – call counts, bird sightings, FORMAK (Forest Monitoring and Assessment Kit)
- The number of employment and training opportunities provided
- The level of school involvement
- Ability to meet project milestones (determined through regular reviews)
- Reporting to funders and project partners
- What methods are being used for eradication/suppression?
We are using a mix of methods, including traps, bait stations, and cameras. With so much cutting-edge research currently underway within the predator control space, we expect new methods to become available every year.
About introduced predators
- Why are possums a problem?
Northland was one of the last regions in New Zealand to be invaded by possums, but they have quickly become a serious threat to our forests and native wildlife. Possums eat leaves, flowers, leaf buds, fruit, eggs, birds, insects, and snails – threatening native species and their food supply.
- Why eradicate possums?
Possums are the simplest of the three target predators to achieve eradication with the tools and technology that are now available. When there are no possums eating leaves, lead litter depth increases which means soil moisture is retained. This makes our forests more resilient to disease and climate change while also improving foraging conditions for kiwi.
- Why Whangārei Heads?
Our aim is to completely remove possums from Whangārei Heads peninsula (between Bream Head Scenic Community Reserve and Parua Bay) and then protect it from incursions. Whangārei Heads was chosen as a key area for this project because it has an extremely high level of active community-led conservation groups and landowners already working hard on pest control.
- How will you keep possums out of Whangārei Heads?
Water is a natural barrier to possums and Whangārei Heads, as a peninsula, is surrounded by water (Whangārei Harbour to the South and Pataua Estuary to the North). The narrow neck of land between Parua Bay and the head of the Pataua Estuary will be defended using a barrier, such as several lines of intensive trapping. The possum population outside of the possum free zone will be controlled to reduce the likelihood of incursion.
- Is eradication of possums achievable?
Yes! Possum eradication at Whangārei Head’s is achievable for the following reasons:
- National expertise: New Zealand has been a leader in the eradication of predators from offshore islands for decades. In recent years, several organisations have been working hard to develop new tools and methods to achieve the eradication of predators on the mainland and huge achievements have been made
- Similar projects: we have the benefit of learning from other mainland eradication projects in other regions, such Hawkes Bay, Wellington, Dunedin and Taranaki
- Our people – Whangārei’s community conservation groups are national leaders in their field and have already proven magnificent results can be achieved when we work alongside one another
- What are the long-term benefits of achieving possum eradication?
Possum control will support an increase in growth and fruit production of our native forests, which will then support native species, such as kākā and kererū, to safely breed. It also:
- Provides long term cost savings
- Means less use of baits long term
- Creates more time for watching the birds and enjoying a predator free environment
- Eliminates the likelihood of tuberculosis (TB) spreading
- Increases resilience of forests during periods of drought
- What are mustelids?
Mustelids are stoats, ferrets and weasels.
- Why are stoats a problem?
Stoats can be extremely fierce and, if they get the chance, will kill more prey than they need. They hunt at any time – day or night – and can cover large distances. They significantly impact native bird populations, including wrybills, the New Zealand dotterel, black-fronted terns and kiwi – it is estimated that 60% of North Island brown kiwi chicks born each year are killed by stoats. Birds that nest in holes in tree trunks, such as mohua, kākā and yellow-crowned kakariki, are easy prey for stoats, who can take out eggs, chicks and adults in one attack. Stoats also prey on native lizards and insects (particularly weta), as well as native fauna.
- Why are ferrets a problem?
Ferrets have a significant effect on native wildlife. They mainly hunt at night – preying on native riverbed breeding birds, such as dotterel species, as well as native lizards, frogs and invertebrates. Ferrets are known to kill adult kiwi and can climb trees to steal chicks and eggs from nests. Ferrets produce one or two litters (of four to eight kittens) per year. Their average lifespan in the wild is four to five years.
- Why are weasels a problem?
Although they are not as common in New Zealand as stoats and ferrets, weasels do have an impact on native wildlife. They are predators of native birds, eggs, insects, and lizards and insects – particularly skinks.
- Why are rats a problem?
There are two common species of rat on the New Zealand mainland: Norway rats and ship rats. They are a significant threat to native flora and fauna, preying on birds, snails, lizards, tuatara, frogs, insects, eggs, chicks and larvae, and consuming flowers and seeds. Norway rats and ship rats have contributed to the decline of many native species including the Bellbird (korimako), robin (toutouwai), stitchbird (hihi), saddleback (tiekie), native thrush, parakeets (kakariki), flightless weevil, and giant weta.