Date: 13 October 2020
The Department of Conservation (DOC) has committed $1 million over 12 months, with up to $5 million on the table over the next 5 years.
Predator Free Rakiura (PFR) Chairperson Paul Norris says the funding is a significant milestone which enables the group to move the project to the next phase – planning and design.
“This is wonderful news for all those who want a predator free Rakiura and a huge milestone for our group. The funding will be used to understand what is required to achieve eradication on Rakiura. If successful, Rakiura will be the biggest predator free island in New Zealand and will lead the way for the rest of the country.”
This years’ funding will be used to establish a strong governance structure, kick-start project design and develop a project plan, Paul says.
Predator Free Rakiura is an ambitious goal to rid the island of introduced predators – rats, possums, feral cats and hedgehogs. The island is home to more than 20 threatened species whose long-term survival is under threat due to predation. It’s also one of the most complex projects of its type anywhere in the world.
It’s driven by a diverse group representing local iwi, central and local government agencies, representatives of hunting and recreational groups and members of the community. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed in July 2019 by 13 signatories indicating a strong support for the Predator Free Rakiura vision.
Te Runaka O Awarua Kaiwhakahaere Dean Whaanga says Predator Free Rakiura is a forward-thinking goal.
“In a generation’s time, to have Rakiura predator free and the manu and biodiversity thriving, will be a wonderful accomplishment - not only for Aotearoa but for the world.”
DOC partnerships director Barry Hanson says a Predator Free Rakiura would take New Zealand another step closer to the Predator Free 2050 goal.
“The Predator Free Rakiura concept has been around for many years and resonates with so many people. Rakiura could truly become a haven for so many special taonga species – such as kakapo – and in turn will provide benefits to the local community.
“We don’t know what we don’t know yet – this phase is all about finding that out. As we learn more, and more people and groups get on board and partner with it, Predator Free Rakiura will truly help pave the way for the rest of New Zealand.”
“It’s not something any one group can do alone, and together, we’re excited to be moving to the next phase.”
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About Predator Free Rakiura
The Predator Free Rakiura vision is to grow Rakiura / Stewart Island and adjoining islands as a taonga – by working collaboratively towards predator free lands that allow ecosystems and community to thrive and benefit from each other.
There are over twenty threatened species in the 1,746 km2 Project area, where conservation of the populations on Rakiura is essential for their ongoing survival globally. These range from plants, invertebrates, freshwater fish, bats, reptiles and birds. Many of the threatened species are found only on Rakiura and so their protection on Rakiura is essential.
Predator Free Rakiura is an aspirational concept to rid Rakiura / Stewart Island of rats, possums, feral cats and hedgehogs. By removing these predators, the concept is to enhance Rakiura / Stewart Island and surrounding islets by strengthening the social and cultural links with our nature, by enriching resident and visitor experiences, by creating quality tourism opportunities and by improving the environment for our threatened native species and habitats.
Norway and Ship rats have been found in all vegetation types of Rakiura. Pacific rats / kiore were found to be dominating in manuka shrubland. Whilst there is variation between the different rat species, generally speaking rats eat a wide range of animal and plant foods including invertebrates, lizards, birds, bats, flowers, fruits, stems and leaves. Apart from rats, feral cats eat mostly birds, lizards and invertebrates, and scavenge readily. On Stewart Island, feral cats have caused the local extinction of kākāpo and brown teal. Possums are opportunistic feeders, eating anything from leaves, flowers and fruit through to eggs, chicks, lizards and invertebrates. A small population of hedgehogs is known to exist around the township. As well as invertebrates, hedgehogs will eat birds, eggs and fruit.
Stoats, weasels, ferrets, pigs and goats are not present on Stewart Island/Rakiura.
The pathway towards the vision is unclear and will require creative thinking, new technologies and the collective input of many to achieve progress including from iwi, central and local government, the Rakiura / Stewart Island and wider community, philanthropists, non-government organisations, businesses, science and research organisations, land owners and individuals. As existing technologies are refined and new technologies emerge (such as refined and virtual barriers, remote detection devices, drones, heat-sensing technologies, new traps, baits, lures and deterrents and success in removing predators at scale elsewhere) there is a new opportunity to explore the feasibility of a Predator Free Rakiura. The Project will require creative thinking, new technologies and the collective input of many to achieve progress.
The Predator Free Rakiura Group is comprised of representatives from the Stewart Island resident community, business, hunting interests, fishing and aquaculture industry, iwi, Rakiura Maori Land Trust, Rakiura Titi Committee, Rakiura Titi Islands Administering Body, Department of Conservation, Environment Southland and Southland District Council.
A Memorandum of Understanding committing the Parties to the Project was signed in July 2019. The signatories to the memorandum of understanding are:
- Awarua Rūnanga
- Oraka-Aparima Rūnanga
- Waihōpai Rūnanga
- Hokonui Rūnanga
- Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu
- Rakiura Māori Lands Trust
- Rakiura Tītī Islands Administering Body
- Rakiura Tītī Committee
- Director-General of Conservation from Department of Conservation – Te Papa Atawhai
- Southland District Council
- Southland Regional Council (Environment Southland)
- Real Journeys
- New Zealand Deerstalkers Association
The Predator Free Rakiura vision video can be found on:
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