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Published: 2013-01-31 00:00:00

A possum control operation to help protect rare and threatened plants and birds in the Paeroa Ranges and surrounding farmland near Reporoa has achieved excellent results so far.

When completed, the combined Department of Conservation-Waikato Regional Council operation will involve using aerially applied 1080 baits over about 4000 difficult-to-access hectares, as well as ground-based possum control methods over 9300 hectares of surrounding farmland and small bush blocks.

The aerial 1080 baiting operation was completed before Christmas. Follow up monitoring has shown a zero per cent residual trap catch (RTC). RTC measures the density of pests caught in traps after baits are laid. Monitoring of nearby waterways picked up no contamination with 1080 after the aerial operation. Also, local private landowners have reported seeing a number of live deer on their properties afterwards. Some took up the opportunity to have deer repellent added to baits applied to their land.

The council’s biosecurity operations manager Peter Russell said he was very pleased with the results: “We have worked closely with our contractors Epro Ltd, DOC and local landowners to carry out the latest aerial operation. The great outcome, achieved in a safe and effective manner, is very satisfying, particularly given the special nature of the area being treated. The ongoing support of landowners for this work is most encouraging.

“We are currently working to finish off the ground-based control and this is also progressing very well.”

The land being treated includes a large area of DOC estate known as Te Kopia Reserve, a well recognised landmark between Rotorua and Taupo. The reserve is home to a range of rare and threatened plant species. Some of the plants are within the internationally significant Te Kopia geothermal field, which has the largest population of rare geothermal ferns in New Zealand and a number of other threatened plants that only grow in thermal areas.

The reserve is also home to uncommon birds such as the New Zealand falcon (karearea), North Island fernbird and rifleman, as well as to native bats. All of these species are threatened by possums and rats.

The treatment of adjoining private farmland will help stop possums re-infesting the DOC area and help protect the productivity of the farmland.