On the eve of the return to mana whenua of key ecological and
historic sites on Aotea/Great Barrier through their long awaited
Treaty settlement, research amongst Aotea’s landowners shows wide
support for pest management and a pest-free island.
The quantitative research amongst 277
ratepayers and landowners, should be an important input to
decision-making for the Department of Conservation and Auckland
Council in the months ahead.
In late 2015 and early 2016, Auckland
University masters student Joanne Aley, carried out quantitative
research amongst landowners of Great Barrier Island. Aley’s research
was part of a wider project to explore attitudes to pest management
on inhabited islands of the Hauraki Gulf.
The findings were presented at the joint
conference of the Society for Ecological Restoration Australasia
(SERA) and the New Zealand Ecological Society (NZES) in Hamilton on
20 November 2016.
Aley’s research is reported in her masters’
thesis: Environmental and pest
management attitudes of Hauraki Gulf Island Communities1.
The thesis comprises quantitative and secondary data and analysis
relating to pest management attitudes amongst Aotea/Great Barrier
ratepayers and landowners. The findings relating to Great Barrier
were shared in extracted form with the Aotea Conservation Park
Advisory Board in December.
island landowners’ attitudes to pest management
Focusing on four inhabited islands within the
Hauraki Gulf; Rakino, Kawau, Great Barrier and Waiheke, and a
stratified sample from the Auckland mainland, as a form of
control group, the study had three main objectives:
· To survey each
community’s attitudes towards the environment and pest management.
· To develop and utilise a
framework of social characteristics associated with pest eradication
on inhabited islands.
· To develop and
psychometrically test an attitudes assessment scale designed to
measure broad contexts of attitudes towards pest management.
Figure 1 gives an overview of the responses
from landowners on all island’s surveyed.
Figure 1: Landowner support
for pest management on four inhabited islands in the Hauraki
Gulf, and a control sample from the mainland. Results for
Aotea/Great Barrier are characterised by the relatively high
percentage of those surveyed who were ‘unsure’ about pest
Two thirds of all Hauraki Gulf island
communities surveyed had pro (yes) attitudes towards both the
environment and pest management. Most positive are Rakino landowners
(Rakino is already rat-free). All are more positive than Auckland
landowners. Larger islands, including Aotea/Great Barrier and
Waiheke, had a higher proportion of respondents who were ‘unsure’ or
‘depends’ in their attitude towards pest management.
for a pest-free Aotea/Great Barrier Island - but the process has to
Of the approximately 1,000 landowners on
Aotea/Great Barrier Island, Aley received responses from 277 – a
credible 28% response rate for this type of mail survey. The median
age of respondents was 60 years and 59% were male. Over half of
dwellings were unoccupied (i.e. non-resident ratepayers).
Key findings of Aley’s study include:
· Strong landowner support
for a pest-free Aotea/Great Barrier Island (67% ‘yes’).
· Negligible rejection (2%)
of a pest-free Aotea/Great Barrier Island – important as landowners
are a significant segment of the island’s community and economy.
· Higher uncertainty about
a pest-free Aotea/Great Barrier Island amongst a minority of
landowners (31% unsure/depends) than found on other islands.
Aley identifies this relatively high level of
uncertainty as a key issue for Aotea/Great Barrier Island. While the
cause is not completely clear, Aley highlights the importance of
understanding what is driving these attitudes, including
misinformation about pest management prevalent in the community.
project to develop an ecology vision for Aotea/Great Barrier (funded
by the Great Barrier Local Board) has also indicated wide support
for restoration, pest control/suppression, and in particular cat
control on the island.
Worth noting is that the methods used in this
project are qualitative (as opposed to Aley’s quantitative methods)
and as such do not measure the extent to which the opinions of
contributors are held across the wider community.
Aley states that a clear positive correlation
between experience of, or participation in, pest control
(particularly rats) and positive pest management attitudes,
including support for a pest free island.
With progression to inhabited islands comes the need for better
social engagement approaches than has occurred to date1.
This correlation is evident in the research
amongst Aotea/Great Barrier Island landowners, but was found to be
highest on Rakino where people are already experiencing the positive
impacts of an absence of rats on birdlife and in their homes.
Rakino Island in the Hauraki Gulf.
Residents on this 1.5 km2 rat-free island
had the highest levels of support for pest eradication.
On Aotea/Great Barrier Island, an unknown but
significant number of landowners carry out pest control on their own
properties, adjacent to land managed by the Department of
These areas are known to include ecologically
significant habitats. An island-wide inventory of this activity
would add to current levels of understanding about the total level
of effort being expended to suppress rats on the island, as well as
the extent of participation and experience of the community in such
Glenfern Sanctuary — part of
the Kotuku Peninsula Sanctuary is protected by a
predator-proof fence. Active pest control on the Peninsula
is managed by a trust that also includes private landowners
and the Department of Conservation.
analysis of the ‘pathways through’ which will be of use to the
Department of Conservation and others in moving forward on the issue
of pest management on Aotea/Great Barrier.
Picking up on both Aley’s research and recent
developments in the New Zealand pest-free arena, the Great Barrier
Island Environmental Trust presented recommendations to the Aotea
Conservation Park Advisory Committee on 5 December 2016. In summary,
the Trust called on the Committee to:
· Work in partnership with
Ngati Rehua Ngati Wai ki Aotea, the Great Barrier Local Board and
relevant ecology experts to agree a
common view of
priority locations to progress ecological protection and restoration
projects on Aotea (avoid overlap, duplication of effort and
competition for funding).
· Ensure that the planned
rat eradication on Rakitu, kokako reintroduction to Te Paparahi and
pest control on Hirakimata are carried out with
community involvement to raise the level of community
participation and contribute to increased positive perceptions of
· Ask the Department of
Conservation to actively
and more closely
landowners who are, or would like to, control pests on their
· Ask the Department of
Conservation to work with the Local Board, Auckland Council
Environmental Services, local schools and relevant experts to
simple, accurate and appropriate information
on how pests
harm local wildlife and places, the implications of a pest-free
island and the options for pest control – to help address the
uncertainty expressed by one in four Aotea/Great Barrier landowners.
J., 2016. Environmental and pest management attitudes of Hauraki
Gulf Island Communities. Thesis for the MSc Biological Science (Biosecurity
and Conservation) University of Auckland 2016.
Eight steps to a pest-free Aotea
collaboration between iwi, central and local government, NGOs and
competition for funding and fragmentation of effort.
a shared set of ecological priorities for the island.
a joined up ‘Southern
Sanctuary’ close to main
population centres so more residents, ratepayers and
visitors can get involved.
cost-effective sources of pest management equipment and supplies.
access to relevant New Zealand (and international) experts.
up forums for increased networking and information sharing between
growth in on-island plant sources for revegetation projects.