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Published: 2013-05-03 00:00:00

The latest stage of possum control in the Paeroa Ranges and surrounding farmland near Reporoa has again proved highly successful.

The operation - designed to help protect rare and threatened plants and birds, and support farm productivity - got underway before Christmas, with aerially applied 1080 baits spread over 4,000 difficult to access hectares by contractor Epro Ltd.

Follow up monitoring after the aerial baiting showed a zero per cent residual trap catch index (RTCI) against a target five per cent. RTC measures the density of pests caught in traps after baits are laid.

Now subsequent possum control, using ground-based methods, over another 9,300 hectares of farmland and small bush blocks has also been completed. Follow up monitoring has shown an RTCI of 0.8 per cent.

“This is another fantastic result, far lower than the target five per cent,” said biosecurity operations manager Peter Russell.

“Epro Ltd, in liaison with regional council staff, the Department of Conservation and local landowners, has been able to notch up another strong performance,” said Mr Russell.

Future work in the area would depend on what pest trends were shown by ongoing monitoring, he added.

Local farmer Richie Stokes, who is also a regional council catchment liaison sub-committee member, said he was very pleased with the results. “This will certainly help protect the area’s biodiversity, as well as support the productivity of farmland.”

The land treated before Christmas included 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 native bats. All of these species are threatened by possums and rats.

The more recent ground-based treatment of adjoining private farmland and small bush blocks will help stop possums re-infesting the DOC area and enhance the productivity of the farmland.