PHOTO: Predator Free Wellington

Redefining what’s possible in city landscapes

Predator Free Wellington Ltd is a charitable company supported by Wellington City Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council, NEXT Foundation, Predator Free 2050 Ltd and Taranaki Whānui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika. Predator Free Wellington connects a network of thousands – households, community groups, schools and organisations – who share the vision to make Wellington the world’s first predator free capital city.

Phase 1 on Miramar Peninsula has been successfully completed – with the elimination of Norway rats, ship rats, stoats and weasels. The peninsula now moves into long term biosecurity monitoring. Getting to 0 was a significant challenge, and a milestone shared by all those who were part of the journey! The project is now focused on Phase 2 ‘Island Bay to CBD’, where elimination efforts are well underway.

As part of the PF2050 vision, Predator Free Wellington is working to solve the urban piece of the puzzle and, alongside The Capital Kiwi Project, aims to see rats, possums, mustelids removed from over 30,000 ha up to the boundary with Porirua.

Backed by unprecedented levels of institutional and public support, and building on 20-years of integrated predator control in reserves and rural landscapes, the spillover success of the ZEALANDIA Te Māra a Tāne ecosanctuary, and the efforts of community trapping groups, the programme is producing incredible results for both wildlife and community.

Q and A with the project, March 2024

What is the project most proud of?

We’re incredibly excited to have reached zero animals on Miramar Peninsula for our 4 target species. We share this milestone with all those who stuck with us on the journey – in particular the amazing community effort and support of our funders! It was a significant challenge, so devising a successful recipe for urban eliminations has delivered a real sense of accomplishment for all involved. As part of that, we’re immensely proud of the impact this project has delivered for both people and place. The latest bird results on Miramar Peninsula showed a 71% increase in native bird observations since the project began, with mokomoko (lizards) and invertebrates also flourishing! Perhaps what makes this urban elimination mahi so special is that success relies on every neighborhood being involved. We’re really proud to have achieved equitable deployment of devices, meaning everyone can enjoy the benefits of rat free homes and increasing wildlife – something uncommon with ecological projects, globally.

What stage is the project at?

We have moved into long term biosecurity on Miramar Peninsula (phase 1) having effectively handed it back to the community with our back up of cameras – and our detector dog duo, Sally and Rapu, onsite for surveillance monitoring. With our exit strategy now implemented, it means we can redeploy our labour force into Phase 2 ‘Island Bay to CBD’. This second phase includes 14 suburbs from Kilbirnie, around to Ōwhiro Bay and up through to the CBD – which is an area of 1500ha home to approximately 70,000 people (so we’ll be delivering direct benefits to approximately 100,000 Wellingtonians). We’ve amassed the 10,000 permissions required for Phase 2 and are well underway with the elimination efforts. The first zones we have tackled in Phase 2 have already acheived elimination and switched into long term biosecurity/surveillance. Active elimination work is now underway in Lyall Bay, Kilbirnie and Hataitai as our rolling front methodology continues to evolve. Now we have worked out how to do this, optimising our methods is a key theme, so we can continue to dramatically improve the cost profile and go harder, faster.

What’s next?

We will keep rolling through Phase 2, then it’ll be full steam ahead into Phase 3. Alongside optimisation, our key focus for the year ahead will be to continue to innovate as we tackle the specific challenges of the Phase 2 environment and terrain – think Wellington Zoo, the regional hospital, Government House and high rise buildings!

We’re also keen to better understand the impact of the project at a deeper level. We are now capturing stories from residents, volunteers, staff and key stakeholders about changes resulting from their involvement in our predator free project on the Miramar Peninsula. We are using a technique called Most Significant Change, which is a participatory form of monitoring and evaluation that measures intangible qualitative indicators.

It’s really exciting to be following along with the progress of all of our fellow landscape scale projects.

What tools have been most useful for your project

Our biggest asset is definitely our people. We rely on the community to be our eyes and ears on the ground, letting us know about possible rat incursions. This makes for a formidable biosecurity team alongside our awesome detector dog duo, Sally and Rapu, and an extensive camera network.

We are also very fortunate to be working alongside over 60 community trapping groups across the city, and a crew of over 200 volunteer community rangers leading mahi in the town belt. Ultimately, this project belongs to Wellingtonians. Those setting traps in their backyard or local reserve are the heart and soul of the movement.

It is population level participation, leadership and commitment required to not only achieve the national Predator Free 2050 goal but also enable a viable exit strategy. We are incredibly lucky to have such committed communities in Wellington.

Last but not least, our team of elimination specialists! Originally a short term contract role that largely involved working to a fixed grid of devices, the field role has become a career path for skilled predator free workers. The team has developed specialist knowledge, particularly related to how rats interact with habitat, and use GIS to take a data-driven approach to decision making.

Launched August 8, 2018
PF2050Ltd investment $13.9 million
Total project investment $32.3
Funding commitment Five years
Project lead Predator Free Wellington Ltd
Māori partners Ngāti Toa Rangatira and Taranaki Whanui
Collaborators Predator Free Wellington - Wellington Airport, Zealandia, Papa Taiao, Victoria University, Manaaki Whenua. 32 backyard trapping groups active across 44 suburbs and 32 schools participating in the pilot schools programme. Capital Kiwi -Wellington Community Trust, Kiwis for Kiwi, Department of Conservation.
Ambition 30,000 ha
Design Suburb by suburb predator removal and defence, phasing toward towards Porirua.