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Published: 2009-04-24 00:00:00

Environment Waikato contractors have successfully completed a major possum kill across almost 25,000 hectares in two priority pest control areas in north-west Waikato.

The ground-based operations at Port Waikato-Wairamarama (11,771 hectares from November 2008 to February this year) and Waingaro (13,084 hectares from May 2008 to January 2009) were part of a major ongoing EW programme aimed at:

· protecting native trees and wildlife in sensitive ecological areas from possums and ship rats

· supporting farming by preventing possums from spreading bovine tuberculosis and competing with stock for pasture

· reducing erosion of hill country by protecting trees for stabilisation

"The north-west Waikato area contains about 100 key locations that are regarded as regionally significant biodiversity sites, many of which will benefit from this huge reduction in possum numbers" said EW biosecurity zone manager David Hodges.

"We are very satisfied with the kill rates achieved by our pest management contractors Farm and Forest Pest Services Ltd at Port Waikato-Wairamarama, and Targeted Pest Solutions Ltd at Waingaro.

"The Port Waikato-Wairamarama operation and about a third of the work at Waingaro were about re-treating areas where we’ve been before, while the rest of the work at Waingaro was the first time we have carried out pest control in that area.

"All of this work will provide real benefits in terms of helping to stabilise hillsides, and protecting trees and birdlife from the ravages of possums, while farmers will also benefit as the pest control helps protect their farming operations."

Mr Hodges said farmers and other landowners in the previously treated areas had earlier been helped by EW to do their own pest control work but their efforts had not been as successful as hoped. EW ‘s priority possum control programme has taken over the operations with the consent and cooperation of the landowners. Professional contractors are able to achieve higher kill rates because the work is co-ordinated and a wider range of control options are available .

"These latest two operations have cost just over $510,000 or around $20 a hectare. Using a competitive tendering process has helped keep costs down while using professionals has certainly paid dividends in terms of effectiveness."

Part of the 13,084 hectares treated at Waingaro adjoins the Hakarimata Range near Ngaruawahia. Toxins used there included encapsulated cyanide, cholecalciferol and brodifacoum. Before the operation monitoring gave an average of nearly 25 possums being caught for every 100 traps, with some areas returning figures far higher. Post-operation monitoring caught less than two possums per 100 traps.

In Port Waikato-Wairamarama similar toxins were used in conjunction with some ground trapping . Again, post operation monitoring showed less than two possums caught per 100 traps. Previous pest control by landowners had only got this figure down to about 15 possums caught for every 100 traps.

Farmer Rory Sherlock, part of the steering group that oversaw the Waingaro operation, said: "It’s great that EW took over the possum control. I can concentrate on my farming and don't have to worry about getting around all my bait stations a few times a year. I'm also keen to see even more improvements in the environment and would like to see this work maintained."

David Walter, a farmer on the steering group for Port Waikato-Wairamarama, said: "Farm and Forest Pest Services Ltd did an excellent job - it was very professional and successful and there was little disturbance to peoples farming."