Miramar first scene for predator-free capital

Miramar first scene for predator-free capital

The Wellington suburb of Miramar is the country's movie capital, but it'll soon have a starring role in the city's aim to be predator-free.

An ambitious plan to make Wellington the first predator-free capital in the world has been launched by Wellington City Council, the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) and the Next Foundation.

It follows on from the Government's lofty target of having the whole country without predators by 2050, thereby allowing native birds and lizards to thrive.

Miramar Peninsula will be the first act, with a plan being developed to eradicate rats and stoats which will then extend to the rest of the city.

The plot doesn't include cats and dogs however, with residents expected to be the supporting cast as responsible pet owners. 

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says the city already has a large network of volunteers who work on restoration projects and conservation.

"This next step will enable the project partners to work with local communities to build the momentum that will be critical in sustaining the project over the long term."

The groups say the peninsula is a good place to start to get rid of predators with the airport almost running the length of the entrance and acting a barrier to keep pests away.

In 2006, the GWRC declared the suburb to be possum-free, and they haven't re-infested the area.

The city council already manages introduced predators of native animals in the reserves it looks after, in partnership with the GRWC, with a lot of work done by volunteers.

If it's a blockbuster success, Forest and Bird says it'll be proof of concept that the entire country can become predator-free.

"We have the technology already to do large areas of wild conservation land, we'll be able to do it pretty well across our rural areas, but the tricky bit will be the populated and complex city areas and if we can do Wellington we know we can make the whole of New Zealand predator-free," campaigns and advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell says.

While a lot of work is already being done already, the task ahead is still a big one.

"Let's not kid ourselves - it's not going to be a simple thing, but it's something we're going to have to try and make work over time if we're going to succeed in making New Zealand predator free by 2050, the urban areas and cities are probably the hardest thing to do."

The Next Foundation has named Kelvin Hastie, who spearheaded the Crofton Downs Predator Free Community project, to work with Predator Free Wellington on its plans.

"We are delighted to have Kelvin on board and to support Wellington in this bold vision," Next Foundation chairman Chris Liddell says.

"We are looking forward to Wellington being famous for not only the Beehive, but birdsong."

Mr Hackwell says the community involvement in the Crofton Downs project was crucial.

"It turns out it only needed every fifth or sixth house to actually be doing regular rat control to get rid of all the rats in that suburb."

The idea for a predator-free Wellington is backed by a number of mayoral candidates including Jo Coughlan, who plans to rid the peninsula of predators in three years and the city in a decade.

In July, fellow candidate Justin Lester also launched a similar policy which he says would see brown kiwi back in Wellington within seven years.

While the city is aiming to become the first predator-free capital, Budapest in Hungary has held the crown of being the first rat-free capital since 1972.

Mr Hackwell says that shows Wellington's plan isn't impossible.