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Published: 2012-11-27 00:00:00

A possum control operation to help protect rare and threatened plants and birds is due to get underway shortly in the Paeroa Ranges and surrounding farmland near Reporoa.

The combined Department of Conservation-Waikato Regional Council operation will involve the use of aerially applied 1080 baits over about 4000 hectares and ground-based possum control methods over  9300 hectares of surrounding farmland and small bush blocks.

The aerial 1080 method is being used over difficult-to-access terrain. Once it is completed, ground control will continue into next year.

The land to be 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.

Treating adjoining private farmland will help stop possums re-infesting the DOC area and help protect the productivity of the farmland. Any aerial 1080 baits dropped on private land will have deer repellent mixed in with them, as some landowners are keen to preserve deer for hunting purposes.

The council’s biosecurity operations manager Peter Russell said extensive planning and consultation work had gone on over the past 18 months to prepare for the operation.

“We’ve treated this general area twice in the past, in partnership with DOC, and this latest operation will help us maintain the gains we’ve made previously.

“Recent surveys by DOC and ourselves indicate that possum numbers in the area have increased again to unacceptable levels and it’s important we act now to stop them impacting on the ecological values of the area,” Mr Russell said.

Mr Russell said local iwi were supportive of the operation and more than 100 private landowners had agreed to allow access to their properties.

“We acknowledge that, as always, some have reservations about the use of aerially applied 1080 on their properties.

“We understand why people are uncomfortable and want to thank them for their co-operation. The reality is that 1080 is the most cost effective and efficient way of treating difficult to access terrain and it is appropriate that we use it on some of the land in this operation.” 

There is a 40 hectare aerial exclusion zone around a water intake area, to negate any remote possibility of bait entering the immediate catchment area. Although not required by health authorities, there will also be water sampling at selected sites carried out immediately after the operation as another precaution.

“We have an excellent track record of carrying out aerial operations safely and can assure Waikite Valley and Reporoa people our contractor Epro Ltd will take every care to ensure this operation is carried out extremely professionally.”