Last year, about this time,
I visited a small town in New South Wales to attend my first Australian
Recorder Festival. It was a blast, with players and tutors from all over
Australasia, UK, Europe and the USA.
my attention about this small country town of 23,000 people was that
they had created a major education centre for that vast area of inland
farms between Sydney and Brisbane. And they thus have a thriving economy
and a thriving small country township. Not only are there 18 schools in
Armidale providing the full range of public, private, Steiner, Catholic,
Aboriginal and Presbyterian education, there is a Teacher Training
College, a Conservatorium of Music and a University. Although this
University has an enrollment of over 20,000 students, only 2,000 are
ever present at the same time, the rest are doing distance learning in
50 countries around the world. It really made me realize that a place
could create its own economy, choose how they want that to be, and not
be left to the whims of ‘the market’.
So if the
Barrier took the brave step of pursuing the predator free idea what
would the benefits be?
damage to houses and gardens would cease. The year by year build up in
soils of rat poison laid around Barrier homes would be arrested. The
continued hassle of laying traps or bait would stop for households and
the money used for these could be spent on something else (over thirty
years this is estimated to save about $600,000 across the island). DOC
too would be able to allocate its annual expenditure here to more
productive items and projects. The costs of the smaller pest projects
will largely disappear and the substantial investment needed to build
protective fences will be avoided1 .
Kaikoura Island would automatically be protected (otherwise they have a
constant battle as rats can easily swim a kilometre). And of course we
could all stop ‘killing’ things.
employment would be created with new opportunities for a variety of
skilled people. First there is the task of eradicating the pests. This
would be a major exercise and require a large team for a considerable
period of time. Not just for eradication activities, but beforehand for
planning and afterwards for constant monitoring and ‘mop up’. Getting
that last rat will become an obsession! Getting that last feral cat will
require diligence and determination. Barrier people could be trained to
do a lot of this work themselves. Once complete they can move to ongoing
monitoring and restoration activities.
are the eco-tourism opportunities that will result from being the
largest rat free island in the world. New small businesses will be
invented using the existing infrastructure — but using it for the whole
year round, spreading the load, not just living through the stresses of
the three or four week period that Auckland people want to come here.
Visitors could be attracted from other countries that have different
holiday periods. Age groups could be targeted whose lives no longer
revolve around school holidays.
rare and threatened species (chevron skink, brown teal ducks, black
petrel, kaka, kereru, mistletoe etc) will have a much better chance. If
the island is rat and feral cat free, fewer measures will be needed to
protect these highly endangered beings. Examples of costs that have been
incurred protecting endangered species in other parts of New Zealand
• to get one
Takahe established on Tiri cost $20,0002
• effective Kokako management costs $43,000 – 63,000 per pair.3
This sort of
cost will be minimised if a rat and feral cat free environment is
established on the island and domestic pets are well managed. More seeds
of all sorts and sizes will be left on the ground to grow into trees
enhancing the natural regeneration of forest across the island. The
ecology of the island will be free to find its own natural balance.
create a haven for other New Zealand threatened species e.g. with no
stoats, rats, feral cats and well-behaved dogs, endangered species such
could be re-introduced. The existing tiny population of Kakariki could
be built up as these birds respond well
aviary breeding. As new species are introduced and become more prolific,
the island’s attractiveness to visitors will increase – they can see a
wide variety of NZ wildlife in a single place – they will be able to
visit a ‘Tiri’ that they can live in for a while and really experience –
it’s not just a day trip.
improves Gt Barrier Island’s economy in a ripple effect that rapidly
spreads out into the community. Auckland city’s research shows the
percent of visitor spend in this table6:
economy ensures improvements in infrastructure (roads, schools etc) and
competitive transport, food and freight prices for the locals. As this
builds up, the island’s continued and enhanced uniqueness may even
provide the opportunity for World Heritage status to protect the
special-ness of this place for all generations to come. Let’s do it!
1. 4km of fencing would cost about $1m to construct and then
incur between $3m to$7m maintenance cost over 30 years
2. John Craig, University of Auckland, 21/07/05
3. NZ Journal of Ecology 2204, 28(1): 83-91
4. There is no direct evidence of Kiwi apart from the name
Okiwi, however the habitat is suitable for our national icon.
5. The last Kokako were taken off Gt Barrier in the mid
90’s and transferred to Little Barrier.
6. Tourism Auckland August 2005