Initial funding from the DOC Community Conservation Partnerships Fund (CCPF) and the Auckland Council Regional, Environmental Natural Heritage Fund (RENH) was secured in 2016 and along with allocated funding from its own funds, enabled the start of a Predator eradication programme to be developed across the whole of Waiheke. This built on what was already being done by the likes of Auckland Council, DoC, Forest and Bird, Rocky Bay Ratbusters and numerous individuals islandwide and to try and identify the gaps and ensure they are filled.
This will contribute towards biodiversity protection and improve the ability for Waiheke Island to become a “Treasured Island” within the Hauraki Gulf and reduce the chance of re-invasion from Waiheke of nearby predator-free islands.
It should also enhance the potential for the successful reintroduction of native fauna, such as Kiwi, allow Waiheke to become a sanctuary for existing native species, encourage and inspire Waiheke Island residents and visitors to participate in predator control and conservation and create a success storey that will inspire others, including future generations to become involved in environmental initiatives.
As Waiheke is possum free initially the first phase of the programme was a “proof-of-concept” phase focused on the eradication of mustelids through the use of existing best practice trapping systems and emerging technologies and in due course this will be extended to rodents. The programme will also looked to engage the community in this initiative and others to include responsible pet ownership.
An Expert Advisory Panel was established to include leading scientists and others involved in mustelid and rodent control. A Stakeholders Group, to drive the project, was formed to include representatives from the Hauraki Gulf Conservation Trust, Waiheke Resources Trust, Forest & Bird, Rocky Bay Ratbusters, Large landowners, SPCA, Local Board and local Iwi.
A co-ordinator and trapper team completed the “proof-of-concept” phase and a report back to DoC and Auckland Council was made in June 2017.
In September 2017 a meeting was held with representatives of Forest and Bird, Waiheke Resources Trust, Ngati Paoa, QE2 Covenantors, DOC, Auckland Council, Local Board, Ratbusters and landowners and the organisation now known as The Waiheke Collective was formed with a view to submitting applications to Auckland Council to extend the Pilot Study and to Predator Free New Zealand for an audacious Predator Free Waiheke proposal.
In January 2018 funding to extend the Pilot Study was received through the Auckland Council RENH fund and a further top up from the Waiheke Local Board made. The focus of this project has been to increase protection around the known Little Blue Penguin, Grey Faced Petrel and Kaka nesting areas. In February 2019 a further RENH award has allowed this programme to continue until December 2019.
In February 2018 PFNZ announced that Predator Free Waiheke had been selected as one of the short list of 7 from 45 applications and invited to submit a full proposal. After much input by various individuals and groups the submission was made and in September 2018 the Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage announced that Predator Free Waiheke or Te Korowai O Waiheke, as it is now known, was the fourth recipient of a PFNZ grant of $2.9m towards a budget of $10.9m. A separate Trust Board has since been appointed and a Project Director – Mary Frankham (ex HGCT Trustee) appointed in February 2019. The HGCT is acting as the Umbrella funder for the new Trust in the meantime. Further details of this exciting project can be found at http://www.predatorfreewaiheke.org.nz
In conjunction with Forest and Bird and the SPCA and “Responsible Pet Ownership” brochure was been produced and was circulated through the Marketplace to all houses on the Island over Labour Weekend 2016. A new updated version is being worked and should be printed shortly.