Twenty years of pest control brings back birds

6 November 2015

This year Wellington celebrates the results of two decades of pest control in Council reserves.

 Biosecurity Officer Illona Keenan demonstrates how to set a trap at Otari Wilton's Bush

Biosecurity Officer Illona Keenan demonstrates how to set a trap at Otari Wilton's Bush

Possum control started at Otari-Wilton’s Bush in 1995 and has expanded to include 4500 hectares of land thanks to staff from Wellington City Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council, dedicated volunteers and innovative businesses.

These pest control efforts, combined with the sanctuary of pest-free Zealandia and over 1,000,000 planted trees has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of native birds in our parks and reserves. A recent survey carried out by Wildlife Management International has found that whitehead and kākāriki are now permanent residents in Trelissick Park, while bellbirds and kākāriki are a common sight in Khandallah Park and Otari-Wilton’s Bush.

“Wellington is now a biodiversity hot spot. Locals and visitors love to see so many native birds thriving in and around our city,” says Mayor Celia Wade-Brown.

“Our efforts have been well rewarded; we’ve had kererū nesting on Miramar Peninsula for the first time, falcons nesting on Te Ahumairangi Hill and kākā nesting throughout many of our small urban reserves – I even saw saddlebacks in Polhill Gully.”

“We are continually focussed on achieving a wildlife-safe Wellington,” she says. Our biodiversity action plan commits our next decade to being a true eco city.” 

Natural Environment Portfolio leader, Councillor Helene Ritchie, is delighted with the visible success of helping our native bird species flourish. “In 2000, there were thought to be only six pairs of tūī in Wellington, now they are a common sight in many of our backyards and local reserves.”

“Tūī were a rare site on Miramar Peninsula, but a 100-fold increase was recorded soon after possums were removed,” she says.

While there have been some great successes, Council Urban Ecology Team Leader, Myfanwy Emeny highlights that not all our native birds are flourishing. 

“We’ve found that some of our native birds, such as the North Island robin and the tīeke are struggling to set up home outside the safety of Zealandia’s fence, due to wandering cats, rats, hedgehogs and mustelids. We need the public’s help to make sure our native birds have the best chance of surviving. Pests don’t stick to property boundaries so people can do their bit by trapping rats in their own backyards.”

Wellingtonians can buy a trap and learn how to use it at Pest Fest this Sunday, 8 November, at Waitangi Park. Part of Conservation week, Pest Fest is an all-ages event with games, activities and information about New Zealand’s pest, plants and animals. People will also be able to swap a pest plant from their garden for a native plant.

Other ways people can help keep native birds safe include not letting their pets become pests. As there are flightless birds around Wellington, such as the little penguin and kākā fledglings, cats should be kept indoors between 7pm and 7am and dogs should be kept on a leash, unless visiting off leash exercise areas, particularly in bush and coastal areas. Learn more at Backyard Biodiversity and Consents and Licences - Dogs.