On 5 July 2022 representatives from Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research and Predator Free Rakiura signed a significant research partnership agreement worth a joint $2.8 million over 4 years to work together towards ridding Rakiura/Stewart Island of all major predators - possums, rats, feral cats and hedgehogs.
A predator eradication project of this combined size and complexity has never been attempted before. It will be the biggest island predator eradication ever attempted globally and will also be a world-first predator free project on an inhabited island. Rakiura is around 180,000 hectares in size and has a population of 400 permanent residents. As a haven for native species, a predator-free Rakiura will protect these taonga for generations to come and enable nature and community to thrive.
Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research will provide $350K per year over the next 4 years of the project to undertake the fundamental underpinning science. This funding will be matched by Predator Free Rakiura. The research partnership will drive deep insights into achieving freedom from predators, a critical part of which is understanding the social aspects of resourcing, achieving and maintaining freedom from predators from the perspective of the local community and iwi.
This ambitious work will be a major step towards the goal of a predator free Aotearoa New Zealand. Rakiura is the anchor for Aotearoa, and what we learn here will help to pave the way for the whole country to become predator free.
Dr Fiona Carswell, Acting CEO at Manaaki Whenua - Landcare Research, says: “Manaaki Whenua is delighted to stand beside Te Puka Rakiura Trust in making Predator Free Rakiura a reality. Real communities and projects are what bring our research to life. For us, there is also much to be learned through the co-development of the research with the Trust and the local community. We relish working with local knowledge and approaches to achieving biodiversity aspirations for Rakiura. Knowledge built by this ambitious project will surely have much to offer similar predator-free projects on the mainland in years to come.”
Paul Norris, co-chair of Te Puka Rakiura Trust, says “Predator Free Rakiura is thrilled to be able to partner with Manaaki Whenua – as a leading crown research agency specialising in biodiversity and land science, they will bring a wealth of experience to our project. Together as a partnership this will go a long way to gaining insights to the areas where we need to learn further to progress the aspirational aim of a Predator Free Rakiura. The learning achieved at Rakiura will also, I’m sure, assist in lessons for a Predator Free New Zealand along the way.”
Campbell Leckie, Predator Free Rakiura Project Director, agrees. “There is so much to learn to make Predator Free Rakiura a reality. This agreement for research enables a significant number of individual research projects each year, allowing us to explore predator behaviour, predator distribution and density, and the social and economic impacts of a project of this size and complexity. It will also help us understand the tools and techniques we may need to use, in multiple trials, to be successful.
“Partnering with Manaaki Whenua, to help build the successful pathway to eradication, is critical to Predator Free Rakiura’s success. The scale and amount of research also means we can involve many people of different backgrounds in the research, which is central to building confidence and trust in a successful eradication. We believe the questions asked and answered as part of this collaborative research agreement will be fundamental to the success of Predator Free Rakiura and create useful and practical knowledge for use on mainland Aotearoa.”
Dean Whaanga, co-chair of Te Puka Rakiura Trust, says: “The Mana and the Mauri of Rakiura, its maintenance and protection, the vitality of place, is extremely important to Ngāi Tahu as Kaitiaki. Presently Rakiura is in a state of pōuri or sadness. On the surface a visitor might see the beautiful treasure that it is, however its true mana and mauri will be recognised when the indigenous species return in numbers as seen by our ancestors, that the biodiversity and its mauri is such that traditional practices like mahinga kai, rongoa are undertaken as of right, sustainably, without a feeling of impingement on a struggling environment. The solution is a Predator Free Rakiura, a jewel not just in the crown of Aotearoa but Te Ao Whānui (the wider world). Research, Matauranga and Tikanga give us insight and allow us to understand how to make Predator Free Rakiura a success.”