One thousand traps – and counting: peninsula makes pest free

Richard Chambers and Pauline Smith put down Hibiscus Coast Forest & Bird’s 1000th rat bait station in Whangaparaoa last week.

Hibiscus Coast Forest & Bird is closing in on rats, possums, stoats and hedgehogs, having last week placed its 1000th trap on Whangaparaoa Peninsula.

But to reach its stated aim of creating a pest-free peninsula, it needs the community’s help.

The Pest Free Peninsula project began four and a half years ago with the stated aim of making Whangaparaoa free of wild pests so that native birds and insect life can flourish.

To date, more than 90 volunteers have established 50 lines of bait stations, Timms traps (for possums) and snap traps, creating four “choke points” across the peninsula (see map, next page). Pests are also being targeted elsewhere on the Coast – including Orewa Estuary, Hatfields Beach and parts of Silverdale.

Hibiscus Coast Forest & Bird chair, Pauline Smith, was there when the first trap was put down, at Karaka Cove, on January 29, 2014 and she helped volunteer Richard Chambers put in the 1000th trap, on private property in Red Beach, on August 30.

She says despite the significant progress that volunteers have made, there is a lot more to do – and the focus has now turned to private property.

“We are a long way off done,” Pauline says. “Even though we have had an enormous and encouraging take up of bait from the bait stations, I still get constant reports of serious infestations of rats. With saddlebacks now extending their range beyond Shakespear Open Sanctuary, it is even more important, because those birds are so vulnerable to rats.”

She says this was highlighted when the most recent traps were put down around the open sanctuary, on private land in Army Bay, and the number of rats caught within the sanctuary dropped.

Another bonus was the recent sighting of seven banded rails at Okoromai Bay.

Pauline and volunteer Richard Chambers say the big thing about the work done to date is that it covers all the public land, creating a framework. The choke points created so far now need to be filled in to create stronger defences against wild pests.

“The improvement in birdlife has not happened to any great degree yet, but these are the bones completed now and trapping on private property will flesh those out and enable us to make the next big step,” Richard says.

Council-owned land has been the ‘low hanging fruit’ for pest control, due to its location and also because Council supplies the bait stations and traps needed. As well as parks and reserves, local golf clubs, the Peter Snell Youth Village, Whangaparaoa College and Kingsway School are among the sites where pest control is taking place.

If the project is to take the next step, the community has an important part to play by trapping pests in their backyards.

“We are asking people to come forward if they would like to help with pest control on their own property, or in their street,” Pauline says. “Not only does it help the homeowner, but it contributes to the much wider picture of making our community pest free.”

She says Forest & Bird can supply all the traps and bait needed, but need to charge for them to cover the cost because they are a charitable organisation reliant on donations and grants. Members can also provide advice and support to anyone who wants to control pests on their land.

Richard says now is the ideal time to begin trapping, as rats become more active in Spring and, at the same time, birds are nesting.

Anyone who would like to know more can contact Forest & Bird by emailing hibiscuscoast.branch@forestandbird.org.nz


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