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Published: 2012-03-14 00:00:00

Waikato Regional Council staff are looking at whether lessons learned during the successful and highly popular Hamilton Halo project to protect tui can be applied to other parts of the region.

A report to yesterday’s regional pest management committee meeting said this investigation would particularly look at how the Halo model can be used to enhance significant natural areas (SNAs), which can be on public or private land.

Halo – which involves rat and possum control at tui nesting sites around Hamilton to help increase the number of the birds visiting the city – started five years ago. Seeing a tui then in Hamilton was a very rare event.

However, since Halo pest control began, sightings and actual nesting attempts reported by the community have increased significantly. The project has its own Facebook page and a range of Halo-related events and competitions have been held.

On the Halo website, well under 50 sightings were reported from August-October 2008. In the same months the following year, there were nearly 300. Last year, during the same three month period there were under 150 sightings. The report noted that reported sightings would probably continue to decrease as tui became a new “norm” for Hamilton and the public was less likely to report sightings.

There were signs of birds moving away from being transient visitors to becoming Hamilton “residents”, the report said. As a result, the regional council was talking to Landcare Research and Hamilton City Council about doing pest control in Hamilton during the tui breeding season.

“There will be challenges to doing pest control in urban areas but staff are confident they can be overcome,” the report said.

Staff were also looking at how Halo’s lessons could be applied to other areas and how work at other sites might be connected to SNAs.

“The Halo concept of outcome-based intensive rat and possum control could have a tremendous positive impact on biodiversity in some SNAs,” the report said.

For example, possum control results in north-west Waikato could be enhanced if Halo-like control was undertaken in targeted SNAs. Also, a “Raglan Ring” could be developed to build on pest control around Whaingaroa Harbour.

The report noted “undertaking any of these projects on a large scale would require community consultation and funding approval from council”.