Over 5000 traps set in Taranaki to restore biodiversity

New Plymouth is pioneering New Zealand's largest predator-free programme in a bid to restore biodiversity to the region. 

The Towards Predator-Free Taranaki region-wide project was started in June last year to boost biodiversity by removing rats, stoats and possums from rural, urban and conservation land. 

The project, supported by $11.7 million from Predator Free 2050 Ltd, has 29 Taranaki schools involved by making tunnels, or selling traps to their community, according to Taranaki Regional Council. 

A student at New Plymouth Boys High School making a trap.
A student at New Plymouth Boys High School making a trap. Photo credit: Supplied

Project lead Toby Shanley says it's teaching children about protecting the environment, telling Newshub it adds to the effort to restore effort to the region's biodiversity. 

"The benefits we'll see are more birds and more native wildlife and healthier plants in Taranaki."

New Plymouth Boys High School Principal Paul Veric says the work has real meaning and importance to some students, who for the first time are engaged and passionate about school work.

"Our boys love trapping, but it's more than that - they understand the importance of why they're trapping and what it's doing to support Taranaki's biodiversity."

There have been an apparent increase in Kaka bird sightings in New Plymouth, and more reports of native gold-stripe geckos in backyards, Mr Shanley says. 

But that could just be coincidental as people focus on the landscape and the wildlife in their area, he admits. 

"It's exciting to see these early outcomes for students and residents.

"We know that reducing rats, stoats and possums to low numbers will make the single-greatest difference to Taranaki's biodiversity, but this social impact is a valuable additional outcome of the project too. 

"It's fantastic the enthusiasm we are seeing so early on."

More than 2000 rat traps have been set up in backyards, with another 1000 rat and stoat traps on public reserves and parks, and 2100 traps are being rolled out on rural land.