Inspirational predator free Mackenzie project announced

A large predator free area featuring some of the South Island’s most majestic landscapes is the long-term vision of a multi-million-dollar predator control project announced by the Minister of Conservation, Eugenie Sage today.

“Encompassing 310,000 hectares between the snowy mountain lands of Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park, glacier fed lakes and the iconic drylands of the upper Mackenzie Basin, the Te Manahuna Aoraki ‘mainland island’ is inspirational,” Eugenie Sage said.

“I am pleased to launch this fantastic project. Te Manahuna Aoraki will help to preserve and protect the habitats of 23 threatened species including wrybill/ngutuparore, robust grasshoppers, kea, and the world’s rarest wading bird, the kakī/black stilt.

The Department of Conservation (DOC), NEXT Foundation, Te Rūnanga o Arowhenua, Te Rūnanga o Waihao and Te Rūnanga o Moeraki are the project’s founding partners. They are joined by high country landholders, and investors Aotearoa Foundation, Jasmine Social Investments, Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC) and Predator Free 2050 Ltd.

“A $4.5 million investment will fund an initial three-year phase to extend protection for threatened species and to test predator and pest control techniques for the rest of the 20-year project.

“The project will use natural barriers including 3,000 metre high mountain peaks, ridgelines and waterways to prevent or reduce re-invasion of predators like rats, possums and stoats – keeping them away from our precious threatened species.

“Building on existing partnerships with Ngaī Tahu, landholders, and local councils this nationally significant biodiversity project builds on decades of DOC’s biodiversity work and the help of many volunteers.

“Supporting this work is the opening of the new captive breeding facilities for kakī/black stilt at Twizel. Funded by Global Wildlife Conservation, the new hatchery and aviary will play an important role in boosting the population of this cherished but threatened bird.

“For the kakī population to thrive, it needs its braided river habitat to be healthy and riverbeds to be clear of introduced weeds and protected from introduced predators. Te Manahuna Aoraki will go a long way to ensuring threatened species calling the Mackenzie Basin home are protected.

“DOC biodiversity ranger, Scott Theobald played an important role in the Te Manahuna Aoraki restoration project before he was tragically killed in a recent helicopter crash in Wanaka along with his colleague Paul Hondelink and their pilot Nick Wallis.

“All three men were committed to conservation and pioneers in their fields.  Scott’s knowledge and advice regarding control of black-backed gulls and rabbits, and his expertise in the construction of the robust grasshopper protection fence will be remembered always as Te Manahuna Aoraki is brought to life,” Eugenie Sage said.