If you look down on Taranaki from a plane you can detect changes around the mountain.
The ring plain is becoming veined by the stream-side planting carried out by farmers over the past couple of decades.
We’ve just announced a project that will take the restoration of Taranaki’s biodiversity to the next level.
We’re investing over $11 million in Taranaki Taku Tūranga – Towards a Predator Free Taranaki, a $47 million project in its first five years. Ultimately it aims to remove predators from 700,000 hectares of mountain, rural and urban land.
We chose Taranaki because of unique features – geography, support from eight iwi, strong council-landowner relationships and a head-start in predator control.
The project pivots around Egmont National Park, where the Taranaki Mounga Project has reduced predators to such low levels it’s safe to reintroduce toutouwai/ robins, helped by research and innovation company Zero Invasive Predators.
Farmers familiar with the Taranaki Regional Council’s Self-Help Possum Programme play a crucial part, with possum numbers already some of the lowest in the country.
I met Peter Hall on a recent visit. He is a third-generation farmer close to New Plymouth and wants to hear kiwi again, just as his grandfather did. He will use wireless technology that alerts him when stoat and possum traps are activated, saving time and integrating predator control in his farm work.
Schools, community groups and backyard trappers are on board, supported by the Department of Conservation, district councils and umbrella trust Wild for Taranaki. Rat and possum traps will be encouraged in one in five urban households.
Taranaki Regional Council CEO Basil Chamberlain told me five million trees were planted over 20 years for the riparian programme. He calls predator eradication the next Think Big biodiversity project, a key programme in the council’s recently approved Long-Term Plan.
It’s great to announce Taranaki as our first project, to enable native plants and animals to thrive, piece by connected piece, across an iconic landscape.