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Human challenge to predator-free NZ

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 25/07/2016

<span style="font-size:13px;">Getting everyone to buy in to the government's goal of making New Zealand predator-free by 2050 is seen as one of the project's challenges.</span> © Grant Dixon/Getty Images Getting everyone to buy in to the government's goal of making New Zealand predator-free by 2050 is seen as one of the project's challenges. Getting buy-in from everyone is seen as a challenge to making New Zealand predator-free.

The government has announced plans to form a joint-venture company to drive efforts to rid the country of all rats, stoats and possums by 2050.

Dr Wayne Linklater, co-director of Victoria University's Centre for Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology, says new technologies for pest control are advancing on several fronts.

However, the "one enormous and largely unconsidered cloud" is how to eradicate predators successfully from areas with people, such as cities and agricultural landscapes.

"That requires convincing almost everyone to `buy in' to the goal," he said.

"Clearly there are large numbers and groups of people who care less than others about killing predators or just care about other things that might conflict with those goals."

Mr Linklater said solving the human dimension of the project would be a greater challenge than the biology or technology problems ever were "and our community of researchers are unprepared for it".

Massey University professor of conservation biology Doug Armstrong welcomed the government investment and said the goals of the project seemed good, including the general one of eradicating rats, stoats and possums by the middle of the century.

However, it was impossible to say at this stage whether that general goal was realistic and getting the support of all those affected would be key.

Mr Armstrong said getting general community agreement was probably the major impediment at present to doing an eradication on Stewart Island.

"This may actually become more of an issue as new technologies develop," he said.

"For example, there are very promising genetic technologies that may appear quite scary and be difficult to implement due to lack of public support."

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