The environmental programme of Te Ara o Te Ata: Mt Messenger Bypass has removed 880 pest animals from nearby forest since last August.
The programme is part of a wider commitment by Waka Kotahi and the Mt Messenger Alliance to tread lightly on the land and involves pest management, restoration and landscape planting, and ecological protection.
The project aims to greatly improve the natural environment in the Mt Messenger area, helping native species to thrive, as well as building a new 6km section of State Highway 3 in north Taranaki.
Since August last year, the Alliance team has trapped 449 rats in the project’s pest management area and wider Parininihi block. 171 possums have also been removed, along with 188 goats, 11 wild cats, and 29 stoats and weasels.
Additionally, the team has established more than 190km of a planned 250km of pest management tracks, and installed bait stations in forest around the new section of SH3.
Alliance lead ecologist Roger MacGibbon says predators such as rats, stoats and possums have, over decades, seriously impaired the mature native forest surrounding the route of the future 6km bypass, and the wildlife that lives in that habitat.
“Our pest management programme will support the forest’s recovery from this damage. We’re committed to leaving the area in a better state than we found it.
“Along with a major programme of restoration planting, our enduring pest management programme will help our iwi partner Ngāti Tama protect the whenua for generations to come.”
Part of the programme includes an upcoming aerial bait application that will make further inroads into the pest population. This joint Waka Kotahi/Department of Conservation operation will target rats and possums that can’t be reached by ground-based pest management work.
From this month, helicopters with calibrated buckets will distribute biodegradable 1080 bait along pre-determined and monitored flight paths over an area of 5,000ha. A 'pre-feed' of non-toxic bait will be sown first, to prime the rodents and possums, ahead of the 1080 bait which will be distributed at least five days later. Each operation will take a day to complete.
Aerial application of cereal pellets containing 1080 is the most effective control method over large areas. It is the only viable method in large, remote, forest-covered and rugged areas. Ground-based trapping and bait stations are effective in smaller more accessible areas, however the number of possum/rodents and stoats can sometimes overwhelm trapping networks. In these areas aerial 1080 can be used to supplement the existing ground-based work.
1080 dilutes rapidly to harmless levels in waterways – it is almost always undetectable after 24 hours. Because it is a natural compound (found in Australian and South African plants), 1080 is degraded by microorganisms in the soil and does not build up in insects, fish or plants.
More information on biodegradable 1080 is available on the DOC website.