A joint operation between Environment Waikato, DoC, Waikato District Council and community groups has disposed of possums in the Hakarimata Range near Huntly.
The Northern Hakarimata Walkway Committee obtained much of the funding for the operation, and Environment Waikato provided funds to cover some of its Key Ecological Sites in the area, to get the operation off the ground.
But Environment Waikato Animal Pest Programme Manager Peter Russell says the work didn’t have the best of starts. The possum operation was undertaken over 1,900 hectares in the northern part of the range, including nearby farmland late last year. Because of the wet spring and summer, the possums had too much feed available and weren’t overly interested in the 1080 carrot baits, which were aerially applied to the central 800 hectare bush area.
While possum numbers dropped from a 16 percent average residual trap catch to 6.5 percent after the operation, the result was not good enough so tactics were changed. The bait was changed from carrot to cereal pellet for an operation in late March and the results were spectacular – out of 360 trap nights, not one possum was caught in the 800 hectare bush area.
The time of year for the operation was better, as normal food sources were dying off and the weather was drier. Overall, the trap catch rate over the 1,900 ha was dropped to 2.3 percent.
DoC monitored the vegetation in the area before the operation was done, and will re-monitor regularly to see and record how much improvement had been made to the trees and bush, Mr Russell said.
The work cost about $62,000 and funding was now being sought to fund work in the southern part of the range. The Walkway Committee is part of the recently formed Hakarimata Mainland Island Trust which aims to set up a pest-free Hakarimata Range with the help of Waikato District Council.
Walkway spokesman Darryll Carey said his group had spent eight years developing the area and it was very satisfying to have this particular benchmark achieved.
“Now we just have to carry on. We want to eventually have a regional park and this place has enormous potential. It’s important to make people realise what a gem they’ve got here.”
He said the possum operation was a “first class example of groups working together to complete a major undertaking successfully”. The success was due to substantial effort from a number of community organisations, which would eventually provide a “million dollar asset”.