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Published: 2007-05-29 00:00:00

A major possum control operation for the Pirongia-Otorohanga area, which Environment Waikato announced in December last year, is set to begin.

The possum control operation is being run and funded in conjunction with the Department of Conservation (DOC) and local land owners.

Covering 74,000 hectares, it is designed to reduce possum densities to very low levels across the north-west King Country area. It involves most land west of, and between, Pirongia and Otorohanga townships.

“Mt Pirongia is considered one of the Waikato’s most important ecological sites,” Environment Waikato Biosecurity Committee chairman David Peart said. “It is home to native birds such as the bellbird, kereru and tui and boasts some of the most magnificent stands of native bush in the region.”

An aerial 1080 drop on Pirongia carried out in 2002 was successful in reducing possum numbers, allowing recovery of the forest and native bird numbers.

“However, if we don’t return periodically to control possums and other pests this improvement won’t last, hence the need to re-treat the mountain,” Cr Peart said.

“By targeting surrounding areas too, the potential for pest reinvasion is significantly reduced.”

Cr Peart said monitoring last summer had shown possum numbers were starting to increase on Pirongia, with possum palatable trees, such as kohekohe and kamahi, showing clear evidence of possum impacts.

“Possums, together with stoats, ferrets, feral cats and rodents, also prey on a wide range of wildlife,” he said.

Aerial control on Mt Pirongia will be carried out using 1080 baits, the most practical and cost-effective control method for steep, rugged country.

“Helicopter sowing of baits using satellite navigation technology allows the pilots to be sure of the boundaries and to exclude important areas, such as roads and water intakes, from being sown with baits,” Cr Peart said.
Cr Peart said the operation was “very much a collaborative effort with DOC and other key parties including Waipa District Council, Waikato District Health Board, iwi, community restoration groups and the 700 land owners in the control area”.

“We have received a lot of interest in, and support for, our proposal following consultation with the community.”

Otorohanga based company EcoFX Ltd and Tuakau based contractor Peter Nichol of Farm and Forest Pest Services Ltd have been contracted to carry out the work. Taranaki company Beck Helicopters will be carrying out aerial operations.

All affected land owners in the area have been sent newsletters and will be personally contacted by the contractors before any work happens on their property. They will be advised of commencement times and kept informed on progress and expected completion dates.

The operation will cover Mt Pirongia (14,500 ha), the buffer zone around the mountain (15,400 ha) and the adjoining areas of Oparau (11,333 ha), Ngutunui (6,400 ha), Waipa-Puniu (10,600 ha), Hauturu-Awaroa (8,775 ha), and Honikiwi (6,870 ha).

It is set to begin on June 13, depending on weather conditions. Independent monitoring of control sites will ensure targets have been met.