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Morgan supports predator-free goal

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 25/07/2016

Philanthropist and economist Gareth Morgan has backed the government's goal of making the country predator-free, but thinks the target year of 2050 is "unbelievably ambitious".

Prime Minister John Key has announced that a new joint venture with the private sector, Predator Free New Zealand Ltd, would drive the program, which would have rats, possums and stoats as its main focus.

The government will make an initial investment of $28 million in the company, spread over four years.

Dr Morgan says he was thrilled to hear about the initiative.

"It's fantastic the government is in this space," he said.

"It's actually saying it's not a stupid idea. It's unbelievably ambitious, but we're enhancing, protecting our natural capital which is arguably our most important, not just environmental, but economic asset."

Dr Morgan is a trustee of Predator Free NZ, an independent trust set up in 2013 with the aim of reducing New Zealand's predator populations.

The trust issued a statement to say it was delighted the government wanted to borrow its name for the new fund.

Dr Morgan said achieving the 2050 target would need communities to be motivated to be involved.

"The trust is all about getting communities together to make an effort," he said.

"At the end of the day, this is such a big job that no government agency is going to be able to do it, whether it's (Department of Conservation) or whoever. It's really got to be grassroots."

Labour Party conservation spokeswoman Nanaia Mahuta said the idea of a predator-free country was laudable, but the government hadn't committed any real money into killing pests.

She said the $28 million earmarked was just to set up a public-private partnership.

"As yet, there is not a single dollar to actually kill any possums, stoats or rats," she said.

"The only promise is that the government will look to contribute one dollar for every two dollars from councils and the private sector."

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