New Zealand was one of the first landmasses to split from the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, 85 million years ago – so long ago that mammals hadn’t yet reached it until bats flew there many millions of years later. That’s why our only native mammals are those that could either fly here (bats) or swim here (seals).
That long isolation means much of our biodiversity is found nowhere else on Earth, but it also explains why our birds, reptiles, bats and insects never learned how to defend themselves from the sharp-nosed, fleet-footed mammalian predators that later came with Māori and European settlers.
In the last few centuries, those predators – stoats, rats, possums, weasels, ferrets, cats, hedgehogs and others – have decimated our fauna. New Zealand has one of the worst extinction records of any nation and, today, some 4000 native species are considered to be at some kind of risk. Around a quarter of those are in real danger of extinction.
In New Zealand, we’ve been trying to control pests for decades using traps, bait stations and aerial poisoning, but this has only ever been about temporary control over limited areas – a way of buying our native species breathing space. It has simply held the line – just – against the predators.
PF 2050 means to push that line all the way back, to free our wildlife from the plague of stoats, rats, and possums once and for all. As such, it’s a step change from piecemeal control to co-ordinated, progressive nationwide eradication.
PF 2050 builds on the knowledge gained from decades of successful island pest eradications in New Zealand, and on the momentum of the hundreds of community conservation projects already springing up around the country. It fits with existing conservation strategies, and offers central and local government, iwi, science and environmental agencies, NGOs, communities and individuals the unifying vision of permanent eradication, and an action plan to achieve it.
Aotearoa’s biodiversity is a taonga, the heritage of all New Zealanders – including those yet to be born. That means we all have a stake in seeing it thrive again. Anyone, everyone, can be a part of PF 2050.