MILLIONS of dollars have been earmarked for a project to make Stewart Island predator free.
The funding was announced to Stewart Island residents recently that the Department of Conservation (Doc) had committed $1 million during 12 months, with up to $5 million on the table during the next five years.
Predator Free Rakiura chairman Paul Norris said the funding was a significant milestone which would enable the group to move the project to the next phase, planning and design.
“This is wonderful news for all those who want a predator-free Rakiura and a huge milestone for our group. The funding will be used to understand what is required to achieve eradication on Rakiura.
“If successful, Rakiura will be the biggest predator-free island in New Zealand and will lead the way for the rest of the country.”
This year’s funding would be used to establish a strong governance structure, begin project design and develop a project plan, Mr Norris said.
Predator Free Rakiura aimed to rid the island, home to 20 threatened species, of introduced predators such as rats, possums, feral cats and hedgehogs.
The group included representatives from local iwi, central and local government agencies, hunting and recreational groups and the community.
Te Runaka O Awarua kaiwhakahaere Dean Whaanga said achieving a predator-free island was a forward-thinking goal.
“In a generation’s time, to have Rakiura predator free and the manu (winged creatures) and biodiversity thriving, will be a wonderful accomplishment only for Aotearoa but for the world.”
Doc partnerships director Barry Hanson said it would take New Zealand another step closer to its goal to be predator free by 2050.
“Rakiura could truly become a haven for so many special taonga species — such as kakapo — and, in turn, will provide benefits to the local community.”