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Published: 2006-03-17 00:00:00

Environment Waikato and the Department of Conservation have just completed phase one of a plan to eradicate feral goats from the northern tip of the Coromandel Peninsula, one of the country’s most prized conservation areas.

The area covers the Moehau Range and is home to a number of threatened plant and animal species including native frogs, beetles, lizards and birds.

“Moehau is an incredibly significant area in terms of its ecological value and ranks sixth on the national priority list for mainland conservation sites,” said Environment Waikato biosecurity officer Dave Hodges.

The goat eradication project, which got underway last November, has seen more than 1100 feral goats culled from 13,000 hectares of land. By the end of this year, the operation will have covered 18,000 hectares stretching from the northernmost tip of the peninsula down to the Colville, Port Charles and Waikawau Bay Rds.

This 18,000-hectare area is the focus of an ambitious pest-proof zone project designed to create protected habitat for kiwi and other endangered species.

Feral goats pose a major threat to New Zealand’s indigenous forests. By eating vegetation, they prevent forest regeneration, destroy habitat for native species and create soil erosion problems.

Department of Conservation hunters and contractors have been tracking the pests with dogs specially trained to avoid kiwis.

With the ‘knock-down’ phase of the operation now complete, hunters have started capturing and radio-tagging billy goats, which will be used to guide them to any remaining goats in the forest.

“These ‘Judas goats’ will help to achieve 100 per cent eradication,” said DOC biodiversity threats manager Pim de Monchy.

“Three goats were caught and released last weekend, and will be checked on every few weeks.”

Environment Waikato and DOC are very grateful to the Moehau Environment Group, local landowners and the wider community for their support with the project.

“The benefits to the native plants and the habitats of native wildlife from the goat eradication will be huge,” Mr de Monchy said.

“For years the improvement in the forest under storey from goat control has been limited by goats reinvading the area, but these gains will be permanent now that we have agreements between all landowners and agencies to keep feral goats out.”

Mr Hodges said partnerships between community groups and agencies were the way forward when it came to pest management.

Environment Waikato, the Department of Conservation and the Moehau Environment Group are also working together to control other pests in the area, including possums, rats, mustelids, feral cats and invasive plants.