$2.8m push to rid Rakiura/Stewart Island of predators

Source: 1News

A research institute and a predator-free project are teaming up to try and rid Rakiura/Stewart Island of possums, rats, feral cats and hedgehogs.

Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research and Predator Free Rakiura have announced $2.8 million over four years is going towards their predator eradication project.

It's being touted as the biggest island predator eradication attempted worldwide and the first on an inhabited island.

Predator Free Rakiura project director Campbell Leckie said a rat eradication project on South Georgia in the south Atlantic, which is around 350,000 hectares, could be the biggest so far, but it's only home to about 30 people.

Lord Howe Island (600km off the New South Wales coast), which had a rat eradication project, is around 1456 hectares but is only home to around 350 people.

Rakiura/Stewart Island is around 180,000 hectares in size and is home to a population of around 400 people. It's also a haven for native species.

"Unless someone else gets there first Predator Free Rakiura will be the largest predator eradication to date globally with a community of this size," Leckie said.

Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research will provide $350,000 per year over the next four years and Predator Free Rakiura will match this.

File picture of a possum.

They say their research partnership will drive "deep insights" into achieving freedom from predators.

Predator Free Rakiura project director Campbell Leckie explained the partnership will enable a significant number of research projects to be carried out each year.

Predator behaviour will be explored, along with predator distribution and density. Tools and techniques to rid the island of its major predators will also be looked at.

"Partnering with Manaaki Whenua, to help build the successful pathway to eradication, is critical to Predator Free Rakiura's success," Leckie said.

Co-chairman of the Te Puka Rakiura Trust Dean Whaanga said the island is currently in a state of pōuri or sadness.

"On the surface a visitor might see the beautiful treasure that it is, however its true mana and mauri will be recognised when the indigenous species return in numbers as seen by our ancestors, that the biodiversity and its mauri is such that traditional practices like mahinga kai, rongoa are undertaken as of right, sustainably, without a feeling of impingement on a struggling environment," Whaanga said.

"The solution is a Predator Free Rakiura, a jewel not just in the crown of Aotearoa but Te Ao Whānui (the wider world).

"Research, mātauranga and tikanga give us insight and allow us to understand how to make Predator Free Rakiura a success."