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Published: 2002-08-01 00:00:00

Landowners in the Awaroa/Whangape area of the north Waikato are seeing more native birds and healthier bush following a successful community possum control scheme over the past two years.

More than 90 landowners across 10,000 hectares of land have been involved in active possum control programmes since the middle of last year. The community is working together to control possums, lessening the threat of bovine Tb spreading into the area and improving the health of surrounding bush.

Many attended the inaugural meeting in July 1999 to plan how to deal with a major possum problem in the area and since then Environment Waikato has worked with the community steering group, individual farmers, local schools, pest contractors and the Department of Conservation to tackle the complex issue.

Environment Waikato provided significant staff and material resources for the initial operation, with more than $220,000 spent to bring possum numbers to very low levels across the whole area. The Department of Conservation also contributed to possum control in the Awaroa swamp and were working with landowners around the wetland area.

Landowners are now reporting more native birds, especially kereru (wood pigeon), and more sprouting and fruiting trees. They are also reporting changes in pasture cover and seedlings appearing in bush areas.

Environment Waikato animal pest manager Peter Russell said farmers were being encouraged to make the most of recent fine winter weather to ‘feed’ bait stations to keep possum numbers low. Local pest contractor Peter Nichol will be co-ordinating wholesale cost bait delivery and providing ongoing advice and support to scheme members.

The north section of the scheme at Glen Murray/Waikaretu had been monitored at four possums caught per hundred traps, which was a very good result. Recent monitoring in the southern block at Naike/Hetherington Road produced slightly better results. The swamp area needed to be re-worked after results were not as good as planned, but the work depended on the weather and activities on neighbouring farms, and may be retreated in late August.

The number of monitoring lines throughout the scheme would also be increased so that more Environment Waikato and the landowners could monitor the success of the ongoing possum control.

Landowners were also being encouraged to recognise possum feeding patterns as they moved with the seasons so they could anticipate the best ways of targeting them on their own properties and join with neighbours on best control techniques, he said.