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Conservationist back predator-free goal

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 25/07/2016

Conservation groups have welcomed the government's goal of making New Zealand predator-free by 2050.

Prime Minister John Key has announced the government will make an initial $28 million investment in a new joint venture company called Predator Free New Zealand.

The company will drive the programme alongside the private sector and will work with communities.

WWF-New Zealand executive director Chris Howe says his organisation looks forward to working with the government towards achieving the goal.

New Zealand was home to an extraordinarily high proportion of plants, animals, habitats and ecosystems that occur nowhere else on earth.

"But New Zealand has one of the highest rates of threatened native species of any country in the world many are at risk of extinction because of habitat destruction, pollution, introduced predators and other human-induced threats."

Environmental Defence Society executive director Gary Taylor described the initiative as an excellent one, but said more funds would be needed down the track.

"It's $28 million over four years, which is a start," he said.

"Clearly that won't cut the mustard on its own. There will need to be more revenue come into the system. It's going to take a lot more money by 2050 to get where we want to go."

But Mr Taylor also said the government had made a commitment and he noted that five government ministers were at the announcement on Tuesday.

"Even the economic development minister recognises that conservation is part of the brand and a very important driver for the tourist industry," he said.

Forest and Bird spokesman Kevin Hackwell believes the 2050 target is conservative and making the country predator-free can be achieved by 2040.

He pointed to how areas where rats had been eradicated had "effectively gone up by an order of magnitude every decade" since Forest and Bird's first project on Maria Island in the Hauraki Gulf in 1960.

"The government doing 2050 is being conservative," he said.

"I'm cool with that - no argument - but actually it could be done earlier."

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