Pest Free Omokoroa was established in July 2005, the first part of the project being the laying of Trakka tunnels around the foreshore to establish a baseline of the actual numbers of rats present in the lower part of the peninsula, more than 80% of those tunnels showed rat activity and we knew that our native birds and other wild life, stood little chance of survival. Many residents were also reporting problems with rats getting into houses, sheds, and the Rest Home for the elderly.
By mid August 2005, volunteers laid the first bait line on the foreshore, this was quickly followed by a second line. Our first published ‘rat kill’ results encouraged more enthusiasm to lay a third line through the middle of the peninsula up to the railway line. After just one year the fourth line was laid along a further area of foreshore and across the railway line, and lastly Lynley Park was also covered, giving a continuous bait line right around the foreshore to enclose the largest urban area in the Bay of Plenty to attempt a pest eradication project. The program has 400 stations managed, and the results recorded by, 75 volunteers, this defensive line enables us to keep the middle of the peninsula almost pest free.
After one year, we ran a second Trakka exercise to compare with the original baseline, and found the number of rats tracked had dropped from 83% to 15%. By the Spring of that year we were noticing a definite increase in bird numbers, with sightings of Wood Pigeon, Grey Warbler, a White Heron and even reports of Bell Birds—all of which had not been seen or heard on the peninsula for some time, our bird counts also reflected this return. In mid summer 2007/2008 a class at school laid down another Trakka line which returned a result of 10%. Between 2008 and 2011 the tracking rate has consistently been less than 2%, showing our continuing success in not only lowering the rat population but also maintaining the number at a low level. In response the native and exotic bird populations have increased markedly, we now have regular, seasonal, reports of 20/30 Tui feeding together as well as flocks of Silvereyes. Grey Warblers and Fantails are very evident and exotic birds species are also commonly seen in large numbers.
The consistent baiting and record keeping done by the volunteers allowed us to regularly plot the [estimated] number of rats killed, which by 2008/2009 totalled 21,041, but more importantly it enabled us to produce graphs showing not only the seasonal changes, but also, a consistent down trend of the number of baits taken from 2005 thru to early 2012.
Our group has a large number of great volunteers, who manage the bait lines which cover 12/18 kilometre and willingly contribute 5500/6000 hours per annum. The administration for such a group is also considerable, and includes organising bait and replacement stations, supplying and delivering bait and publishing a monthly column.
Our Future focus:
Will be on continuing to enhance the environment on the peninsula, and with the help of our plant group, taking part in furthering the restoration of Cooney’s reserve and also establishing plantings in other reserves. Contributing to being a part of the sustainable environment project envisaged by Western Bay District Council where trees and shrubs supply a range of food types, for both native and introduced birds, for as much of the year as possible. We feel this is important because as the Smart Growth district plan progresses and development occurs, with the consequential destruction of orchards and large trees and denser in building, the loss of the large feeding areas presently available for the birds and other native species, will highlight the value of our remaining, extensive reserves. Many of the folk in Omokoroa love to walk and already act as our ‘eyes on the environment’, this resource has proved very valuable in alerting both council staff and Pest Free of any local problems.