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Published: 2007-07-25 00:00:00

Pest control contractors are being dropped into bush within Mt Pirongia Forest Park by helicopter this week as Environment Waikato checks the effectiveness of a recent aerial 1080 drop.

A metal cage dangling from a helicopter is being used to get the contractors and their gear into the steep and challenging terrain.

The contractors began work on Monday and are setting 40 monitoring lines at randomly selected points within the operation area. It is hoped results will be through by the end of this week.

Baits containing 1080 were dropped over about 16,000 hectares of land centering on Mt Pirongia in late June, in a bid to drastically reduce possum numbers. The operation was carried out by Environment Waikato and the Department of Conservation, with approvals from Waipa District Council and Waikato District Health Board.

Possum control was last carried out on Mt Pirongia in 2002. This year, Environment Waikato expanded the operation area to 74,000 hectares in a move to increase the effectiveness of the work.

“Our aim is to get the residual trap catch down from about 21-22 per cent to three per cent or less,” Environment Waikato biosecurity operations manger Peter Russell said.

“Mt Pirongia is considered one of the region’s top ecological sites, home to native birds like the tui and kereru and magnificent stands of native bush, so it’s important we protect it. Possums eat native flora and fauna and they also carry bovine Tb, which poses a threat to farmed stock in the area.”

Ground control work within the new boundary is now underway and will go through to next September.