Govt wants NZ pest-free by 2050

Govt wants NZ pest-free by 2050

The Government's announced an ambitious target to make New Zealand predator-free by 2050.

Prime Minister John Key made the announcement at Wellington's ecosantuary Zealandia on Monday afternoon.

He says the introduction of pests such as stoats, rats and possums cost the economy and primary sector around $3.3 billion a year.

"Rats, possums and stoats kill 25 million of our native birds every year, and prey on other native species such as lizards - and along with the rest of our environment, we must do more to protect them," Mr Key says.

It's being called the most ambitious plan the world's seen when it comes to eradicating vermin, and has even been likened to landing on the moon.

"As in the words of John F Kennedy talking of the Apollo project, 'We choose to do these things not because they are easy but because they are hard'," says Conservation Minister Maggie Barry.

The Government currently spends $60 to $80 million a year on pest control. It plans to add $28 million to that to create a joint venture company called Predator-Free New Zealand.

It will also help fund eradication projects by giving $1 for every $2 put in by councils and the private sector.

The Government is also encouraged by how quickly technology has progressed and hopes it will keep progressing.

"You used to have to put out a trapline across an area of land and send people back every time the traps were sprung," says Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce.

"Now you can set them and leave them - you can link them through GPS."

Chairman of the Next Foundation Chris Liddell, the investor that's behind some of New Zealand's biggest conservation projects, says the biggest clincher to achieve this goal will be the support of New Zealanders.

"If we get everyone believing in this and resources consistently aimed at the target, we've got a real chance of making it happen," he says.

And Forest and Bird says it's achievable.

"I think it's a very good goal - it's great the Government has actually made the commitment," says Forest and Bird's Kevin Hackwell.

"It's been the party policy for the last three elections and it's now a full commitment."

It's a bold and ambitious plan but the Government's already putting its money where its mouth is, kicking off the biggest rat-control operation in the world next week over 2.5 million acres in Kahurangi National Park.

Earlier this month, Wellington mayoral candidate Justin Lester proposed that Wellington should be predator-free, which would allow for the re-introduction of brown kiwi to the region within seven years.