Welcoming three new team members! - Predator Free Whangārei

Welcoming three new team members!

The Possum Free Whangārei Heads team has expanded with three new Biosecurity Field Officers joining to help achieve the Possum Free goal by August 2025. We’re so stoked to have them onboard, with such diverse backgrounds and experience – get to know them below!

Please join us in welcoming:

  • Simon Braithwaite (imaged right) – Recently returned from Perth, Simon hopes to pass onto his daughter the neat upbringing he had in the Whangārei Heads, where he went to Parua Bay School. Simon previously worked as a ranger for the Bream Head Conservation Trust.
  • Gavin Condon (imaged left) – Gavin joins the team with extensive experience in the pest control industry both in NZ and abroad, a subject of which he is very passionate about. He has travelled from the Waitakere area.
  • Katelyn McNamara (imaged centre) – Katelyn has made the move from Predator Free Taranaki which is also carrying out a possum elimination project. Two very different landscapes, so we are excited about incorporating her experience with our mahi!

Here’s a fun and inspiring little Q&A with the new members

  1. How did you get into the conservation/trapping space?

Simon: I’ve had a trapping and hunting interest from a young age. My brother and I sold possums to an elderly Irish lady down the road for a dollar each when we were kids. We used what possums she didn’t buy to make apple, pear and possum stew in a 44 gallon drum for some pigs we kept. I’ve been lucky to have some decent conservation and horticulture influences in my life which has helped strengthen a belief that the natural world needs protecting from conflicting human interests.

Gavin: My family encouraged me to get into conservation at a young age, especially with the park rangers near where we used to live. I first went to university then grew my interest overseas in Northern Ireland where conservation and natural heritage was at a fledgling stage and helped it by working with people and communities. In New Zealand, I first worked for the Department of Conservation in the biodiversity threats team and several private sector companies helping them grow in the ecological restoration spaces. My time at DOC educated me that such practices can be beneficial and sensitive in its impact. Presently, I joined Predator Free Whangarei to further my learning in eradication rather than just control.

Katelyn: I learned most about trapping through volunteer opportunities before and whilst studying conservation through WITT Te Pukenga as well as previously working on a Zero Possum project.

  1. 2. What is your favourite thing about working in the field?

Simon: I love the variety of views Whangarei Heads has on offer, each property has its own perspective on the whenua we look at everyday. A lot of my previous work history has been on industrial sites and to be charging around the bush makes a pleasant change from the dust, grease and noise.

Gavin: Being in the bush. Also getting results – rain, hail, or shine, and despite the mud. But I love setting up pest control systems and seeing if and how well they work.

Katelyn: Seeing the ecology thriving in areas where trapping is taking place is very rewarding and probably my favourite thing about working in the field.

  1. 3. What does a Predator Free Aotearoa mean to you?

Simon: It’s a bold and exciting vision to try and undo some major mistakes of the past. I’m pretty stoked to be onboard and part of the army to recreate our little South Pacific Garden of Eden.

Gavin: Reducing various pest species to zero or near zero in offshore islands and the mainland through hard work, dedication, patience, perseverance, learning and developing when necessary. Plus native species recovery benefiting from this work.

Katelyn: To me, a predator free Aotearoa means that native and endemic species would have a fair chance at being able to survive in the changing modern world forced upon them. With the odds against our native taonga in so many ways, taking unnatural predators out of the equation is the least we can do.

  1. 4. Do you think Predator Free 2050 is possible? (optional)

Simon: It’s possible because it’s not impossible. Quite a challenge at this stage but we need to start somewhere if it’s going to happen. Heaps to learn and there are lots of exciting tools in the pipeline, I believe human ingenuity will help with the win.

Gavin: Yes, with hard work and dedication but also learning and making changes where necessary through research, trial and error to achieve this result.


The project is excited to make further progress with Simon, Gavin, and Katelyn onboard. Welcome, once again!



March 19, 2024