Environment Waikato is planning the largest aerial possum control operation ever undertaken in New Zealand, and possibly the world.
Working with Horizons Regional Council and DoC, an aerial drop of 1080 poison will be made over about 81,220 hectares of the Hauhungaroa Range, between Ongarue and Pureora in the west and the Western Bays area of Lake Taupo in the east, from May to September this year. The aim is to eradicate possum populations, or reduce their numbers drastically.
The $2.8 million project is funded mainly by the Animal Health Board, with some DoC funding to cover the Waihaha catchment ecological area. The work will be carried out by Taupo-based Epro Ltd.
“We hope to rid the area of bovine Tb once and for all,” Environment Waikato Biosecurity Group Manager John Simmons told this week’s Council Biosecurity Committee meeting.
There were moderate numbers of possums in the area following previous operations, but numbers were getting higher particularly on the western side, which contained a large area of Pureora Forest park.
The work would begin with a double pre-feed to encourage possums to feed, with the second lot of feed pellets dyed green as the poison baits would be. Cereal pellets would be used, except on areas of private or Maori land where deer repellent-covered carrot bait would be used and ground treated. The aerial work would be done by helicopter, rather than fixed wing planes, he said.
The area contained a number of waterways and was used by recreational hunters. Substantial information had been given to landowners, interested groups and other affected people, with consultation beginning to ensure all parties were part of the decision.
Monitoring the results of the work following the operation would be a mammoth task, he said and would involve over 300 trap lines being placed throughout the area.