'Major milestone': Rakitū island declared predator-free

Rakitū is an uninhabited island off the northeast coast of Great Barrier Island.
Rakitū is an uninhabited island off the northeast coast of Great Barrier Island. Photo credit: Supplied

The Conservation Minister has announced a small island off the coast of Great Barrier Island is now predator-free.

After Rakitū Island was checked by sniffer dogs last week, Eugenie Sage on Sunday announced its rats had been eradicated.

To restore the thriving native bird breeding colonies that existed before rats lived on Rakitū, an operation to remove them began in 2018.

Rakitū is the final Department of Conservation (DoC) administered island in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park to become pest-free, marking a "major milestone", according to Sage.

"These pest-free islands provide a safe haven for threatened native wildlife."

Sage says the islands will be used to recover threatened species breeding populations, providing an "invaluable lesson" into the restoration of native plants and wildlife.

There are now 41 existing pest-free islands in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, including Rangitoto and Little Barrier Island.

Now that the island is rat-free, Sage says there's an opportunity to develop a restoration programme.

"Rakitū represents another step towards a predator-free Aotearoa New Zealand."

More than 60 weka were removed from Rakitū for the rat eradication, but returned five months later.

The 2018 operation to remove rats was a partnership between Ngāti Rehua Ngātiwai ki Aotea and DoC.

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