1. What is the Te Korowai o Waiheke: Towards Predator Free Waiheke project?
Te Korowai o Waiheke is a community-run Trust which is registered as a charity. The Trust will oversee a five to seven year programme on Waiheke, which will start eradicating stoats in 2019 and have rats in its sights across 25% of the island during 2020. After that, the aim is to expand the programme island-wide. Waiheke is already possum-free.
2. What is being funded?
The funding is to eradicate mustelids and rats in the first instance and create greater bio-diversity on the island. The funding will be administered by Te Korowai o Waiheke, a community-led Trust involving a wide range of interest groups working as the Waiheke Collective and bringing together Forest & Bird, DOC, Waiheke Resources Trust, Ngāti Paoa, and other local conservation organisations and individuals, all working together to enhance the biodiversity of Waiheke.
3. Will 1080 be used on Waiheke for this project?
4. If not 1080, then what? Will you be using traps or poison to eradicate pests?
We will be using a toolbox of different eradication methodologies. That means that a variety of tools suitable for eradication will be used, and selected depending on landscape type, situation and the land owners themselves.
5. How many traps will be required?
The network intensity will be reviewed and determined during the initial detailed eradication and operational planning phase. For mustelids, a control trap network might normally be about one trap per 8-10ha, but because we are doing eradication we expect to go down to about one trap per six hectares. For rats we expect the network will be about six per hectare.
6. Will Waiheke really be the world’s first predator-free populated island, close to a major city?
Yes. A ground-based rat eradication was successfully carried out on St Agnes and Gugh Islands in the UK in 2013. However, they only have approximately 100 residents and are much smaller (148ha) than Waiheke, and much further from the mainland (45km). Eradication has also been carried out on NZ islands with very small resident populations (eg. Great Mercury, Rangitoto/Motutapu and Rakino), but no urban centres like Waiheke. Similar eradication projects currently being planned internationally include the eradication of stoats in the Orkney Islands in Scotland, which are about the same distance from the mainland as Waiheke but bigger (523km2) in size and nowhere near a major city like Auckland, and the eradication of rodents on Lord Howe Island (Australia), about 14.55km2, situated approximately 600 km (370 mi) directly east of mainland Port Macquarie, with a resident population of about 400 people.
7. How big is Waiheke and what’s the population?
It’s 9,200 hectares and has a permanent population of around 9,000. However, it attracts about 1.3 million visitors a year (2017 figure), accounting for about a quarter of all tourists visiting NZ.
8. What about cats on the island, domestic or feral?
Te Korowai o Waiheke is not targeting cats. It encourages residents to be responsible pet owners and whole-heartedly supports the organisations on the island working in this area including Hauraki Gulf Forest & Bird and Waiheke Island Society for Care of Animals (WISCA). See the Responsible Pet Ownership brochure here: https://www.predatorfreewaiheke.org.nz/resources/
9. How will we know when the island is predator free?
A project this ambitious will take some time. Following the eradication programmes, measuring and monitoring will be carried out for 2-4 years before the island is declared predator free. Once achieved, monitoring will continue to be essential to ensure the risk of incursions is managed and to prevent predators from re-establishing. The more visible signs of success will be seeing taonga species such as korimako (bellbird), tīeke (saddleback), toutouwai (robin), weta and geckos dispersing, and recovering their place throughout the island.
10. When were possums eradicated on Waiheke or have they never been there?
To the best of our knowledge, there has never been possums on Waiheke.
11. Given the competing interests on Waiheke, between locals, weekenders, tourists etc, is there widespread agreement about the Predator Free initiative?
Everyone we’ve spoken to is committed to the overall aim of enhancing the biodiversity of the island. How people actually go about that may differ from case to case.
12. Are the private landowners on Waiheke going to contribute to this?
Many of the landowners already control rats and stoats and fully support the initiative. They have pledged their support, both financially and with an on-the-ground commitment.
13. What are you doing about the boat owners who use the Gulf and could accidentally transport predators and pests?
Like us, most boaties fully support the Treasure Islands campaign, which is a joint initiative between DOC and Auckland Council to help protect conservation islands in the Hauraki Gulf. This campaign is well-known to the boating community and helps to ensure we all play our part to guard these special places.
14. What are you doing about the people using ferries to travel to the island who could accidentally transport predators and cats?
Many service providers such as ferries in the Gulf have a Pest Free Warrant which provides assurance that these operators have active biosecurity practices to either prevent pests getting on board, or if they do, are trapped in onboard devices. These operators also provide their clients with information in advance, as to what they need to do to comply with biosecurity requirements. We encourage passengers and transporters to use the ferry and barge companies that display a Pest Free Warrant. Auckland Transport also maintains a trap network and has cleaning stations at wharves for passengers to clean footwear to prevent the spread of weeds and kauri dieback disease.
As pests are eradicated from Waiheke, biosecurity will expand accordingly. There is no point removing pests if we can’t keep them off the island. Treasure islands is also a Auckland Council and DOC biosecurity programme to raise public awareness and gain support for biosecurity measures. This will be targeting the additional biosecurity requirements for Waiheke as Te Korowai o Waiheke progresses.
15. What actually is the Waiheke Collective and what is its role in relation to Te Korowai o Waiheke?
The Waiheke Collective is a united network that works together to activate and amplify efforts for a healthy and thriving environment. It was formed in September 2017 and involves a wide range of interests and groups, including Ngāti Paoa, Auckland Council, Hauraki Gulf Conservation Trust, Forest & Bird, QEII National Trust, DOC, Waiheke Resources Trust, and other local conservation organisations and individuals, many of whom have been active in this space for decades.
What the Collective have done is establish the Te Korowai o Waiheke Trust and secured funding to allow the forward momentum of a vision shared by many passionate Waiheke Islanders. The initiative will be managed by the trustees.
16. Who is on the Te Korowai o Waiheke Trust and what are their relevant skills?
Members of the board are:
Chair: Grant Leach (CE Living Green Group and Chair of Endangered Species Foundation).
Collective appointees: Jonah Kitto-Verhoef ( Operations Manager for The Halo Project, part of Predator Free Dunedin), Shane Brealey ( Owhanake Neighbourhood Group and Director NZ Living), Nicola Bowman ( Weed and predator control contractor on Waiheke Island).
Mana whenua appointee: Mahuika Rawiri (Ngāti Paoa Iwi Trust Environmental Manager) and Karla Allies (Ngāti Paoa Trust Board Environment Officer)
Independent appointees co-opted for skills: Ruth McLeod (Director of Strategy Advisory Sales and Governance Services, NZTE), Brett Butland (Director of Pest Free Auckland – Auckland Council), Brent Impey (independent Director, current chair of NZ Rugby Union and SANZA, ex-CEO of MediaWorks, ex Chair of Fred Hollows Foundation).
17. Is the organisation going to have paid staff and, if so, how many?
Yes it has a project management team of three people; Mary Frankham as Project Director, Jo Ritchie as Operations Manager and Jenny Holmes as Engagement Manager. We will also be employing local contractors to deliver the programmes on the ground.
18. Who is Predator Free 2050 Limited? And how is that different from the Predator Free New Zealand Trust?
Predator Free 2050 Limited is a 100% government-owned charitable company. It is responsible for directing a significant amount of Crown investment into the Predator Free programme, with a focus on breakthrough science and large-scale predator control and eradication initiatives. The Board of Predator Free 2050 Limited selects large landscape projects for funding. The Predator Free NZ Trust is an independent organisation established in 2013. Its vision is to connect and energise the nation towards a predator-free New Zealand. It does this by engaging and supporting individuals and community groups to access the information and expertise they need.
19. What happens in five to seven years, when the current funding runs out?
The project will be seeking funding from a variety of other sources on an ongoing basis to fit with community aspirations, its programme of work, and funding needs.
20. What about pests like hedgehogs, mice, weeds etc?
Te Korowai o Waiheke is focusing on mustelids (like stoats) and rats as these have the greatest negative impacts on native biodiversity. This also aligns with the Predator Free 2050 Limited initiative. However it is acknowledged that the environment is a complex and interrelated web of activity. There are already ongoing site led initiatives to control pest plants and animals on Waiheke, many of which participants in the Collective are involved with. While the focus is the key predatory species because they’re known to have such large negative impacts on wide variety on native biodiversity, it is hoped the eradication programmes will inspire further environmental awareness, actions and joint efforts to create a resilient and thriving natural environment on Waiheke.
21. What’s your response to the academics who have said the Predator Free by 2050 goal is unachievable and destined for failure?
Predator eradication wasn’t thought to be achievable at all about 50 years ago. But since that time, we have seen significant improvement and learning, with over 118 islands in New Zealand now predator free. By setting the 2050 goal early, we have seen strong alignment in science effort that is helping guide rapid progress in eradication science. In the meantime, we are seeing investment in new tools and techniques that are going to make predator management more effective in the short-term. The goal has also been a galvanising and aspiring force for community and agencies alike. Eradications of any sort are ambitious, and there have been plenty of people in the past who said they were unachievable and unrealistic, but we know that starting with belief is important, because otherwise you don’t try. Waiheke is home to a number of endangered, regionally rare and declining species and we think protection of these is important. Our proximity to our neighbouring pest-free treasure islands is another significant reason to take action..