Minister welcomes significant step towards Rakiura/Stewart Island becoming predator free

A significant milestone in the journey towards achieving Predator Free Rakiura has been welcomed by the Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage today, with the signing of a commitment to rid the island of pests.

“This is an ambitious vision to back nature on Rakiura/Stewart Island. Once achieved Rakiura/Stewart Island would be the largest inhabited predator free island in the world” says Eugenie Sage.

“Rakiura is home to unique endemic plants and wildlife such as the endangered Rakiura tokoeka kiwi, the Stewart Island Robin, and Harlequin gecko which aren’t found anywhere else in the world. This commitment to predator free status is giving them a much needed helping hand.

"The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed today, between 13 parties including Ngāi Tahu, central and local government agencies, a major tourism business, representatives of hunting and other recreational groups, and members of the Stewart Island community is a commitment to develop a strategy to achieve a predator free status for the island.

“It is an exciting step forward for both the local Rakiura/Stewart Island community and conservation across Aotearoa. As such, it is a significant project in the national Predator Free 2050 goal. Rakiura/Stewart Island is home to many threatened species whose ongoing survival globally depends on conservation right here.”

Predator Free Rakiura will aim to remove rats, possums, feral cats and hedgehogs from the mainland and islands of Rakiura. The islands are already free of stoats, weasels, ferrets, pigs and goats. The predator free concept has been around for some years. Today’s MOU signing is the culmination of several years of substantive discussion and conversation.

“For years, dedicated people from all walks of life have worked to protect and preserve this special island of Rakiura/Stewart Island. This MOU, with its commitment to develop a strategy to secure a predator free haven for the future, is significant.

“It’s inspiring to see so many organisations and groups committed to working together towards the goal of the being the world’s largest inhabited island where predators have been removed,” says Eugenie Sage.

The MOU was signed by Awarua Rūnanga, Oraka-Aparima Rūnanga, Waihōpai Rūnanga, Hokonui Rūnanga, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, Rakiura Māori Lands Trust, Rakiura Tītī Islands Administering Body, Rakiura Tītī committee, Department of Conservation, Southland District Council, Southland Regional Council, Real Journeys and the New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association.

“The Government has committed significant funding to support the achievement of the Predator Free 2050 goal nationally,” says Eugenie Sage. 

New funding in Budget 2018 for predator control of $81.2 million over four years has enabled DOC to scale up its response to the biggest mast event in 40 years, with widespread seeding in beech and podocarp forests.   

It has also enabled DOC to plan longer term and expand the areas under sustained predator control from the current 800,000 ha per year to 1.85 million ha or 20% of conservation land by 2022, including 37,417 ha on Rakiura. This will protect more of our native forests and wildlife and reduce the risk of losing local populations of species.

“In addition, an investment of $10m has been made to DOC’s Tools to Market and PF2050 Ltd’s Product to Projects programmes to accelerate the development of new and improved predator control tools and technologies, increase the range of options for effective predator control” concludes Eugenie Sage.