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Possum operation planned for Hakarimata

Three environmental groups are working together to deal with possums in the Hakarimata Range.

The Hakarimata Restoration Trust, Department of Conservation and Environment Waikato are planning an operation in both the northern and southern sections of the Hakarimata Range and on neighbouring farmland. Environment Waikato community liaison officer for the project, Lou Belle, said that all parties would need to work together to achieve sustained possum control in the Hakarimata Range and surrounding area.

The Range is a significant feature of the Waikato landscape. It is one of the largest remaining lowland forests with a wide range of native plants and animals, some of which are rare or threatened. Forest plants are now struggling to feed the native birdlife and regenerate due to heavy browsing by possums.

In response to the rapid destruction of the forest, a group of concerned community members formed the Hakarimata Restoration Trust in 2001 to work with others in restoring and protecting the bush, returning it to a healthy condition.

“Pest control conducted on the northern half of the Hakarimata in 2001/2002 had excellent results. Possums need to be controlled because they destroy native bush by eating leaves, fruit, flowers and pasture grass, damage forests and orchards, compete with native birds for limited food resources, prey on birds eggs and their young, carry bovine Tb and can infect stock,” Ms Belle said.

After control, residents were likely to see and hear more native birds, see healthier bush, fruit and flowers in their gardens.

“In August this year Environment Waikato conducted a Residual Trap Catch (RTC) survey to assess the level of possum infestation within the Hakarimata range. This survey returned an average RTC of 22 percent, which indicates that possum numbers are high. Possum numbers will need to be reduced to an average of five percent RTC or lower to achieve environmental benefits,” she said.

The groups will talk with each landowner in the treatment area to determine the level of local support for possum control.

“If the community is in favour of controlling possums, Environment Waikato will then work with the Hakarimata Restoration Trust to progress the control programme and provide expert technical advice.

“The best method to control possums on privately owned land will be discussed with the owners, as there are a number of methods available,” she said.

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