Predator Free Wellington Community hero - Jim Tait

13 February 2017

Not everyone would enjoy getting emailed pictures of dead rats on a regular basis but for Wilton resident Jim Tait it is proof of success.

Photo of Predator Free Wellington community champion, Jim Tait.

Jim is one of Predator Free Wellington’s community hero’s. Not only has he been the head of RAMBO (Rat and Mustelid Blitzing Otari) for four years, he is also the man behind Otari Predator Free in Wilton, and more recently, Rodent Free Wadestown.

It is a bit of a change of pace for someone who spent 35 years working for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, 12 of those as New Zealand’s Trade Commissioner in Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo and Shanghai.

Jim and the family have lived in Wilton since 1983 and when he retired back in 2010 his doctor told him he should do more exercise. While most people would take up walking or a gym membership, Jim had other ideas. “I don’t like pointless walking and was interested in getting out in the environment so I joined RAMBO and began helping with predator trapping in the Otari-Wilton’s Bush Reserve,” he says.

RAMBO volunteers look after around 65 DOC200 traps in the reserve, complementing the Greater Wellington Regional Council monitored bait stations in the area. “These days we get very few stoats, just half a dozen a year, but we are getting a lot of rats at the moment,” says Jim.

Spurred on by Kelvin’s Hastie’s success in ridding neighbouring Crofton Downs of predators, Jim started giving out free rat traps in Wilton in June 2016. He expanded to Wadestown just before Christmas.

“It is amazing what he has managed to achieve in such a short time. RAMBO has kept rats under 5% for the last eight years and Jim got traps in 1 in 5 Wilton backyards in only three months. He is a great community hero and we need more people like him,” says NEXT Foundation’s Predator Free Community Champion Kelvin Hastie.

The idea of a predator free Wellington is exciting, yet Jim says it will be a big undertaking. “Predator Free Wellington gives real credence to what we are doing. We are making a big difference to predator numbers but it will be hard to completely remove them with existing technology given the steep bush areas in Wellington,” he says

Turns out retirement is quite busy. Jim estimates he spends around 30 hours a month on his predator free work; sending out newsletters, delivering traps, dropping off leaflets, recruiting new trappers, educating and collating kill results.

How does he keep motivated? Well, the kaka flying into his garden as we talk is pretty good inspiration. “The real motivator for me is adding value to the community. Getting out and meeting people is great, and you can see the results in the increase in the number of birds around, that makes all the work worthwhile”.