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‘Killing two stoats with one stone’

A roomful of trapping enthusiasts and one looming question – is Wairarapa on track to be predator free by 2050?

This poser prompted passionate conversation at the Carterton Events Centre on Tuesday night, as part of a public event on Wairarapa’s place in the predator-free movement.

On seeing the table of traps at the back of the room, one attendee joked that he “should have bought his own ferret”.

Green MP Eugenie Sage spoke on the movement’s history and progress to date in tackling the introduced species that threaten the wellbeing of endemic bird, lizard, and insect life.

Moving on to what lies ahead, Sage said there is great potential in continuing to restore New Zealand’s natural biodiversity, but it will still take a massive effort.

“We need more funding and investment in the science. There’s a huge number of retired people getting involved with the predator-free movement,” said Sage.

The event was hosted by Wairarapa Green Party candidate Celia Wade-Brown.

“We used to think that predator-free meant sanctuaries and fenced islands, not right here where we live – and that’s changing,” she said.

This push for an urbanised approach to pest elimination was iterated by Todd Jenkinson, chair of the environmental networking group Wairarapa Pukaha to Kawakawa [WaiP2K].

Jenkinson said the launch of an official Predator Free Masterton campaign in the upcoming months will have a big focus on engaging with urban dwellers, “killing “two stoats with one stone”.

“What gets people hooked?” asked Jenkinson.

“You can’t make it appealing with the thought of kiwi in the backyard, so what gets people motivated and keeps them motivated?”

Also on the table was the debate of whether feral cats should be classified as predators.

Sage initially brought up this point, using the example of a feral cat caught in Rangataua Forest that was thought to be responsible for the deaths of at least 102 short-tailed bats.

In 2020, another feral cat was found in Canterbury with 17 full native skinks and the parts of several others in its stomach.

Jenkinson said there will be a significant focus on approaching the issue sensitively.

Some in the crowd believed a more urgent approach to pest and predator control is in order.

Greytown resident Shane Atkinson asked Sage about the Green Party’s stance on gene editing to speed up the elimination process.

“Poison alone won’t get us to predator-free 2050, it’s not fast enough or strong enough,” said Atkinson.

“Are the Greens ready for preventative science in the form of gene editing?”

Sage replied that although many might be comfortable with the concept in the confines of a lab environment, there would be a need for public consultation if it went further.

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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