Possums and rats under the pump

A successful kill – Colin Hewens with a rat catch.

The assault on possums and rats in an area of Whakamarama bush known as The Blade has stepped up, with $5000 given by Western Bay of Plenty District Council.

The council funding will help target native bush pests in The Blade area of the Kaimai-Mamaku State Forest Park where a pest eradication programme is underway. It’s led by a group of volunteers calling themselves Friends of the Blade.

The grant will allow trapping lines for possums and rats to be extended to a greater area of the park.

Friends of the Blade coordinator Colin Hewens said the eradication began after The Blade walking track was started by Whakamarama Community Inc., with the aim of encouraging native birdlife in a protected part of the forest.

The original 100-hectare area has been doubled to 200 hectares and the funding will provide for another 13 trap lines. The total eradication project of more than $24,000 will enable the setting up of 130 possum traps and 260 rat traps set in a grid system. It could be completed in two years.

When trapping began in May 2016, there were 18 imprints of multiple rat tracks. Six weeks later there was just a single rat’s footprint. Possums have also taken a hit, with more than 440 possums trapped.

Colin would like pests eradicated to the point where kokako, kiwi and kaka can be safely re-introduced in The Blade– as has been achieved at Otanewainuku Forest in Oropi.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council and BayTrust has also contributed to the eradication. “We rely on these groups with a passion for our native bush and who have a strong community support network.’’

Friends of the Blade are looking for more volunteers to help with the expansion of the trapping programme. Email: col.hewens@orcon.net.nz for more details.