Introduction

The weather-window is finally right for DOC to begin the first stage of the ambitious plan to remove the remaining pests from Rangitoto and Motutapu islands over the coming months.

Date:  18 June 2009

The weather-window is finally right for the Department of Conservation (DOC) to begin the first stage of the ambitious plan to remove the remaining pests from Rangitoto and Motutapu islands over the coming months.

Auckland Area Manager, Brett Butland said that staff have been waiting for a break in the weather to allow for two to three days of aerial application of rat bait to occur.

Rangitoto Island. Photo copyright: Michael Packer.
Rangitoto Island

“We are very excited to be getting started on this restoration project. Our goal is to breathe life back into Rangitoto and Motutapu islands, creating an accessible, iconic nature sanctuary right on Auckland’s front door step.

The restoration of these islands will protect the world's largest pohutukawa forest, and will provide a 3,800 ha environment that could support some of New Zealand's most loved wildlife, including kaka, kiwi and takahe.

Brett Butland said possums and wallabies were removed in 1996 but to allow native bird life to be re-established seven other pest species need to be cleared from the islands.

“Stoats, two rat species, mice, wild cats, rabbits and hedgehogs are all still widespread and the islands can’t provide an effective sanctuary for native species until those introduced threats are removed.”

Rats and mice are first to be targeted with an aerial application of bait containing the poison brodifacoum, a common rat poison which can be bought from the supermarket or hardware store. The remaining pest animals will be removed through trapping, shooting and the use of specialist detection dogs.

As a precaution, the islands will be closed for a period of ten days over each of the three aerial operations.

Mr Butland said that this project will be one of the most challenging island restoration projects DOC has attempted.

“We’ve had great results with pest-free programmes on a long list of islands in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park.

In 1993 Tiritiri Matangi Island was cleared of pests through the same method and is now one of New Zealand’s iconic nature sanctuaries. More recently, little spotted kiwi, shore skink and kakariki have been released on Motuihe Island, which has been pest free since 2004.”

“The Rangitoto/Motutapu project is considerably larger but our team has built an international reputation for its island restoration work and we’re confident of success.”

Once Rangitoto and Motutapu islands had been cleared, there will be a need for visitors to the islands to be vigilant about keeping pests out and ensuring no four-legged stowaways could get ashore. 

“This will be a flagship project that Aucklanders can feel proud to be a part of,” said Mr Butland. “But with that pride comes responsibility, and we expect all visitors to help us ensure that these islands remain pest-free.”

The island restoration work by DOC is complemented by the huge amount of work done by local community groups such as the Motutapu Restoration Trust who have planted in excess of 400 000 trees on Motutapu since 1994.

Background notes:

  • A number of helicopters will operate simultaneously and use spreader buckets and GPS technology to drop the bait. There will be three separate applications lasting two to three days each. There will be a minimum of two weeks between applications and drops will be weather dependent. The baiting will take place within the period 15 June - 31 October 2009.
  • Both islands will be closed for ten days during each of the 3 bait applications to ensure public safety. The aerial operation will be supported by the hand laying of bait in buildings and in all covered structures.
  • Once Rangitoto and Motutapu have become pest-free, we will need everyone’s help to keep them that way, by being vigilant about any rodent stowaways and reporting any sightings of pests or inappropriate behaviour on the islands.
  • Prevention is better than cure so we are asking visitors to reduce the risk of pests reinvading by taking the following simple steps:
  • Checking your boat, bags and equipment for stowaways before you leave the mainland. 
  • Check your gear especially footwear for seeds and soil.
  • Recreational boat owners should look for rodent and ant signs before departure and owners of large boats should keep traps or rodent bait on board. 
  • Land only during the day - rodents are more active at night.

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