The final stage of the 2014 pest control operation on Pirongia Forest Park and Te Kauri Park Scenic Reserve is expected to be completed by this weekend on Saturday 23 August, weather permitting.
Following the successful aerial application of pre-feed baits across the 13,700 hectare mountain two weeks ago, the toxic application of baits containing 1080 poison (sodium fluoroacetate) targeting possums should be completed on Saturday.
Department of Conservation spokesperson Garry Hickman says the previous large-scale pest control work at Pirongia was done in 2007 and monitoring prior to this present operation indicates possum numbers are again causing extensive damage to native forest species.
“The pre-feed baits serve the purpose of giving the possums an introduction to baits on the ground and should help ensure a successful knock down of possum numbers and give the forest a chance to recover.”
Garry Hickman says while the majority of the public conservation land mountain area will be covered by aerial distribution, ground baiting and trapping methods are also being undertaken where appropriate. About 2000 hectares of privately owned land bordering Pirongia Forest Park is being included in the operation.
“Helicopter operators use a highly accurate navigation system to ensure they stay within operational boundaries and away from excluded areas. The Maungauika Stream catchment zone is excluded from the operation. In addition, Waipa District Council will be disconnecting the water supply at this point for the duration of the aerial operation.”
Garry Hickman says in addition to the extensive consultation that has already been undertaken with neighbours and adjoining landowners, signs and notifications warning the public to exercise caution if entering the park will be displayed at access points. The poison 1080 is especially deadly for dogs.
Though not a beech forest, the Pirongia operation is part of DOC’s overall Battle for our Birds campaign, which is primarily focused on South Island conservation lands where beech seed masting is fuelling a massive increase in rat populations. Rat and stoat populations will also take a significant hit at Pirongia from this possum control operation.
Concurrent with DOC’s possum pest control at Pirongia and Te Kauri, Waikato Regional Council is working with landowners to carry out possum control over 40,000 hectares of privately owned farmland surrounding the Forest Park. Treating both private and public land at the same time will reduce possum numbers over a wider area, meaning better biodiversity outcomes.