The Government and Green Party today announced a $4 million pilot project that aims to protect New Zealand's forests and native species with better pest control.
The Department of Conservation (DoC) is to test a new kind of trap for possums, stoats, and rats that, if successful, will reduce the costs of pest control and the reliance on poisons.
"This is a big step forward in the search for new ways to control pests and protect the native species that we all love," said Green Party Conservation spokesperson Kevin Hague.
The pest control project forms part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between National and the Green Party, signed last year in April.
Green Party Co-leader Russel Norman said the latest collaboration was evidence of a genuine effort by both parties to find common ground: "We want to work constructively with the Government wherever possible, and the MoU has been a useful way to advance some good ideas. The latest is this pest control project which could lead to significant environmental and economic benefits for New Zealand."
The conservation initiative will be the first large scale test of new traps that can re-set themselves. Currently, a big part of the cost of pest control around New Zealand is the need to regularly visit traps. DoC plans to purchase approximately 10,000 of the new style traps which can kill up to 12 pests between visits by landowners, trappers or volunteers.
DoC spends approximately $20m each year on control of possums and other ground-based pests including rats and stoats. It has estimated the annual cost of maintaining a traditional rat and stoat trap at nearly $100 compared to less than $20 for the self-resetting traps.
Kevin Hague said that if the self-resetting traps were shown to work, they could be used in locations where aerial poisoning currently takes place: "We're hopeful that this will be a way to control pests like possums with less use of poisons. We all want practical alternatives to 1080 drops and the Government's funding support for this trial is really welcome."
Mr Hague noted that improved ground-based pest control could also help combat Bovine TB and that healthier forests stored more carbon.
The $4 million of funding will be spread over the next three years with the first traps deployed in the summer of 2011/2012. The trial will start in two sites chosen from among Northland's Trounson Kauri Park, Hawkes Bay's Boundary Stream, the Nelson Lakes National Park, and Urewera National Park.
The pest control project joins the home insulation program, national cycleway and regulation of natural health products as areas where the Green Party and the National Party are formally working together.
As well as the $4 million pilot project, the MoU addition will see the Ministers of Conservation and Agriculture and Green MP Kevin Hague "work together to identify and develop policies which will further enhance New Zealand's ability to control pests effectively while minimising use of poisons."