He tangata. It is the people.

Predator Free Hawkes Bay vision; locals Pouri and Shane checking traps and data.

This week’s announcement of Hawke’s Bay as our second major investment opens up important pathways to the Predator Free 2050 goal.

I’ve been in Napier over the past fortnight meeting movers and shakers behind Predator Free Hawke’s Bay.

Campbell Leckie from Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has low cost rural predator control firmly in his sights and believes savings of up to 50% or more may be realistic.

He’s encouraged the development of a new, easy-to-reset trap for mustelids and cats called the podiTrap, plans to work out the minimum number of traps required in a landscape and to monitor them remotely. He’s also using a humane toxin, para- aminopropriophenone or PAPP, developed in New Zealand for mustelid control.

“If we can drive the cost of farmland predator control down, we can deploy resources more widely and accelerate the mission,” he says. In a few months he expects ‘zero predator areas’ will be enabled as a category in the council’s 20-year Regional Pest Management Plan.

The platform for this work has been laid through the Cape to City and Poutiri Ao ō Tane projects, both built on strong partnerships between local and central government, iwi, philanthropists, land owners and research agencies.

Shayne Walker is General Manager of the Maungaharuru-Tangitū Trust and sees the projects as a way for his hapū to build capacity and contribute as kaitiaki.

Recent treaty settlements have enabled him to set bold ambitions, reversing a pattern that saw the hapū’s land shrink “through confiscation from hundreds of thousands of acres to three, on the most flood-prone part of the region.” Bringing taonga species back into ancestral landscapes sits at the heart of them, and cadetships for rangatahi/ youth are included in the project’s operational plan.

He tells me that this year the Poutiri Ao ō Tane project, north of Napier, celebrated the first tītī/Cook’s petrel and kōrure/mottled petrel chicks to be born in the Maungaharuru Range since seabird translocations were initiated five years ago.

Businessman and philanthropist Andy Lowe is another keen supporter of the project. Along with other land owners around Cape Kidnappers he created Cape Sanctuary 12 years ago, at 2,500 ha the country’s largest privately-owned wildlife restoration project. The list of wildlife returned there includes tomtit, whitehead, rifleman, robin, North Island brown kiwi, pateke, grey faced petrel, banded rail, Cook’s petrel, diving petrel, tuatara, kakariki, takahe, kaka and giant weta.

The Cape to City project in the Tukituki River catchment aims to spread the sanctuary’s biodiversity gains Havelock North’s way. “When we built the predator proof fence around the Cape Sanctuary we saw it as a temporary measure. Not having to replace it in 40 years would be a definition of real success.”

The Predator Free Hawke’s Bay project’s initial focus is on 15,500 ha Mahia Peninsula and plans to eradicate possums within four years, alongside mustelid and cat control. It offers an easily defendable area suited to the recovery of North Island brown kiwi and has a strong leadership and partnership commitment from Rongomaiwahine iwi and landowners.

Predator Free Hawke’s Bay is a careful assembly of experience, resources and ambition that anticipates social and ecological transformation across the region.

It’s also a generous and strategic boost to our national goal.

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