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Okiwi Community Pest Project
by Jo O'Reilly

Okiwi School children and staff have looked after Okiwi Reserve for many years. Their work has included pest control, native plantings, making weta homes and more. The children have pride and a sense of kaitiaki for the park and its surrounds.

People in Okiwi take pride in the bird life of our valley. Flocks of up to 12 kākāriki have been counted, kākā are plentiful and raucous, banded rails are everywhere, pāteke are secretive but they’re here and we go to sleep to the calls of morepork and kaka.

The Great Barrier Local Board are supporting the Okiwi Community Pest Project, which aims to protect and enhance biodiversity values in Okiwi, support existing initiatives, and raise awareness and understanding of biodiversity values, threats, and their management.

Surveying community opinions

An initial survey found that many landowners and residents control pests on their properties targeting rats and mice with some also controlling rabbits, minor birds or/and cats. Rats were the biggest concern for people followed by rabbits. Several methods were used to control rats, including kill trapping, live capture, and poison baits. Absentee landowners who undertake control tended to favour poisons (often inside a house).

The project is focussed on non toxic means of control as pest control in a small area like Okiwi, surrounded by unmanaged rat habitat, will require ongoing and regular control of rats. Persistent use of toxins is not best practice and not all community members support the use of toxins.  Residents are still able to use toxins on their own properties and are encouraged to contribute their results to the project. The option to consider a toxin to knock down rat numbers in targeted areas, periodically, if required, is acceptable to most.

Trapping rats and cats

Two hundred kill rat traps in wooden boxes have been placed throughout about 50 ha in Okiwi. Ten multi kill traps have been supplied by the Department of Conservation and will be trialled in areas with more difficult access. The department manages cat traps on public land around Okiwi and the project is augmenting this effort with a few strategically placed traps as well as a cage trap available to individuals to respond to sightings.

The project area has been divided into sections, with individuals, or groups taking responsibility for specific areas. Some people are undertaking work on their own properties and others look after traps on adjoining properties or public land as well.

The school has a big role to play and two Department of Conservation  staff are volunteering their time to service traps on public reserve land.

Results are recorded in the TrapNZ database (see map on back page) where they can be viewed on maps, in graphs or tables, by anyone signed up to the project. Some residents are entering their data, others are supplying data to the coordinator for entry. Trap results have shown an initial high number of rat captures (in most areas where poison isn’t also being used), dropping and being replaced with high mouse occurrence. Mice create problems by consuming the peanut butter in traps but often not springing them.

Rat monitoring with tracking cards provides the opportunity to identify other fauna  in the area, e.g., skinks. Training workshops on bird identification and monitoring have been held in with the first bird monitoring scheduled for early July. The monitoring aims to align as much as possible with work undertaken 10 years ago by John Ogden and the Environmental Trust.

Working with the community

Several community meetings have been held to update residents on methods, provide supplies, share experiences and answer questions. Further workshops and community activities/gatherings are planned for the coming year.

The support by Auckland Council, Local Board, DOC, Okiwi School, and members of our community is much appreciated, and makes the project possible.