Can Stewart Island become the biggest pest-free island in the world?

Stewart Island locals are confident they can become the largest inhabited island in the world to eradicate pests.

The Department of Conservation has signed a memorandum of understanding with 12 groups, including iwi and councils, to develop a strategy.

Local Councillor Bruce Ford says it's a massive step.

"It's all pretty exciting - we could be a model for other parts of the country and further afield."

Ford says the island - also known as Rakiura - is famous for its birdlife, and that needs to be protected - he reckons it could even triple if pests are eradicated.

"Many, many visitors can come here and see [native birds]. You don't have to look very hard. The birds almost come looking for you."

But Ford says achieving the goal will be a massive task.

"Nothing's impossible - you just have to persevere. This year there's been a lot of rats around... because it's been a warm season, the rats have really taken off."

Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage said it was "ambitious vision to back nature".

"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 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.