Wellington predator-free school pilot trains new generation of conservationists

A new generation of conservation leaders in Wellington are being trained in a pilot predator-free programme in schools.

It's part of a plan to become the world's first predator-free capital city.

Project director James Willcocks said it will enable students to have the skills and knowledge to become conservation leaders within their schools and their communities.

The pilot's being conducted at 21 schools on Miramar peninsula, where possums were eradicated 10 years ago. 

"For all intents and purposes it is an island, with a small isthmus, so we believe it's defendable," Mr Willcocks said.

"We've got the airport that goes along the small sliver of land and that's got a huge open space that predators don't like."

Eight-year-old Worser Bay pupil Keir McDonald already had an idea of how important getting rid of predators is for our native wildlife.

"Birds and weta and animals come back, then you can see the rest of what your future is, your imagination, your dreams," he said.

The programme's aiming for zero rats and zero mustelids, which includes weasels and stoats.

It first involves setting peanut-butter-baited tracking tunnels and chew-cards, to determine the presence of predators.

"We've already seen hedgehog prints, rat prints and mice prints in there as well", Mr Willcocks said.

Then traps will be set to get rid of them.

But it's not just about killing.  The schools are also building weta hotels, bird feeders and are planting natives, to provide a safe haven for native biodiversity.

Zealandia's Youth Ranger Darren van Hoof said the level of enthusiasm and skills kids have now bodes really well for the future of New Zealand.

Predator-free hopes to soon link primary schools with intermediates and secondary schools, where conservation projects can be linked into NCEA credits.