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More birdsong in the air

Before long, Masterton residents will be noticing an increase in the volume of birdsong in our environs, thanks to the work of Predator Free Masterton which started in October 2023 with a meeting of interested parties.

The Wairarapa Pūkaha to Kawakawa Alliance, which oversees the initiative, has received funding from the Masterton District Council, Wairarapa Building Society, Nikau Foundation, Masterton Trust Lands Trust and Predator Free NZ.

Part of the Predator Free 2050 project which is at work around the country, Predator Free Masterton is focused on the complete removal of five predators: rats, stoats, ferrets, weasels and possums. Becoming predator free will protect our precious native species, improve our biodiversity, create greater ecological resilience and restore our unique ecosystems.

Niki Jones, the recently appointed community coordinator of Predator Free Masterton, says, “Our immediate goal is increasing the success of nesting pairs of native birds in the Masterton urban area, and encouraging the return and protection of native birds and lizards to our backyards, reserves and waterways.”

Predator Free Masterton has 200 traps to distribute and, thanks to Placemakers Masterton providing materials, about 50 tunnels are ready to go.

“The tunnels provide a place for the trap,” explains Niki Jones, “that is safe from domestic pets, little inquisitive fingers and discourages most birds.”

One of the first goals, he says, has been to get the 200 traps to people and for them to become backyard trappers.

The current area for trap eligibility is from Lansdowne to Solway, the Ruamahanga to the East and West from around Kibblewhite Street.

Niki Jones reports a very encouraging response already. “The 130 people who’ve registered on our website [predatorfreemasterton.com] are either trapping, interested in trapping or aligned with the Predator Free NZ 2050 goals.”

As he explains, “The traps we are giving away are targeting rats. We also have traps used by groups in some areas for possum and we will have something similar for stoat control further into the project.”

There is also support for citizen groups working around Masterton’s parks and reserves.

A tunnel-building public workshop is currently planned for April.

Predator Free Masterton is working with other predator-free initiatives around the Wairarapa. “Predator Free Featherston is doing really well,” Niki Jones says. There are also opportunities for people in Martinborough to help protect Kārearea/NZ falcon nests and an initiative at Castlepoint to improve birdlife survival rates, particularly blue penguins.

Anyone interested in becoming a backyard trapper should visit Predator Free Masterton’s website or contact Niki Jones directly at [email protected]

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