Auckland Council sniffer dogs keeping Rakino Island pest-free

After weeks of lockdown, Auckland Council sniffer dogs are back on the frontline, protecting the Hauraki Gulf's outer islands from stowaway pests. 

While they were off duty, locals had to rely on their local 'taxi' operators to act as pseudo-biosecurity officers.

Just like us, little Rosie the dog has been cooped up at home in lockdown. But unlike us, she can't work from home. 

At just two years old she has a very important job protecting the islands of the Hauraki Gulf.

"Rosie is trained to find rats and mice. A big part of our job is checking the boats that go out to the islands," biosecurity advisor Kerryn Johnson told Newshub. 

All to preserve Rakino Island's reputation. It's been pest-free since 2002.

While she was in lockdown, the ferry operators stepped in to do her job.

"Rummaging through someone's groceries and handling fruit and veggies. It's a weird sensation, but we had to do what we had to do," Adam Tallentire from Belaire Ferries said. 

They've been hunting rats, mice, plague skinks, Argentine ants - all animals that have been eradicated from 47 predator-free islands, including Rakino.

There are around 20 permanent residents from all different walks of life. Some of them get around by car and some by buggy, but they all have one thing in common: they're passionate about keeping the island pest-free. 

Kevin has lived on the island for five years and knows only too well how quickly the pests can take over. 

"The classic example is a few years ago that we had a plague skink invasion on the island where a builder brought out a relocatable building," he said.

"It took us months to prove we had eradicated them and it cost a lot of money."

Being pest-free means native birds can thrive. 

"This is an incredibly melodious island to live in. It's like having music on in the background."

Even plants brought over from the mainland can harbour unwanted visitors, so the island has its own nursery.

"It looks vastly different now to what it looked like pre-2002. When the rats were here they were hoovering up every tree and there was very little regeneration of anything... but once the rats left, then the seeds they were eating started germinating on the island," nursery volunteer John MacKenzie said.

At just over 2km long and 1km wide, the paw patrol keeps Rakino a pest-free, prosperous paradise.

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