Forest & Bird Conservation Advocate Nicola Toki told the conference that the dream for a predator-free New Zealand where our native wildlife flourish can be achieved.
It is up to Forest & Bird members and supporters to make the dream a reality by spreading the idea through the rest of the community and to embrace it – as the late Sir Paul Callaghan expressed it – as New Zealand’s equivalent of the US Apollo space programme.
In the past, the idea of ridding our offshore islands of rats and other introduced predators seemed impossible but it did happen, starting with a small Hauraki Gulf island where rats were eradicated in 1959, thanks to the ingenuity of pioneer conservationist Don Merton.
Nicola said the area of New Zealand where predators have been cleared goes up by an order of a magnitude every decade, with the last being Campbell Island in the sub-Antarctic islands. The next magnitude up would be an area of around 100,000 hectares and she thinks it will not be that hard to achieve.
In his last lecture earlier this year, Sir Paul was talking about a plan for a network of New Zealand fenced sanctuaries when he added, why not bite the bullet and clear the whole country of predators.
In February Forest & Bird hosted 19 scientists and representatives of various sectors and asked if this dream was possible. By the end of the gathering, they agreed it was achievable with a few scientific advances.