At the 2015 LGNZ EXCELLENCE Awards.
A community possum-control initiative, which has seen tui and korimako (bellbird) numbers grow in the region, wins the Air New Zealand EXCELLENCE Award for Environmental Impact.
The Hawke’s Bay Urban Biodiversity (HUB) programme, run by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council (HBRC), in association with Napier City Council and Hastings District Council, was launched in 2008 and covers 15,860 hectares across Napier, Hastings and Havelock North. It has proved so successful there are now plans to extend it to Wairoa and Waipawa.
The programme aimed to reduce possum numbers in selected urban areas and increase bird life, particularly native birds, as well as vegetation growth and food sources for birds.
Awards judges praised it as highly impressive, highlighting the “huge community engagement and demonstrable impact, with clear benefits achieved both for the natural environment and for residents”.
Judges said the project is an excellent initiative that is achieving its objective, with multiple benefits.
Until the programme was started, councils had found public perception was that possum control was a rural problem and the responsibility of the local authority. HUB set out to help urban communities understand the links between pests and biodiversity in their neighbourhoods.
Strong community and private sector support was developed through the councils working with landowners and raising public awareness through letters, information fliers and media coverage.
HBRC staff and contractors visited people to discuss their experiences of possums on their land in order to assess possum routes and favoured trees. Contractors set up bait stations and traps in backyards and a subsidised bait scheme was launched, with HRBC providing bait at a 50 percent subsidy.
Monitoring sites were established to formally track changes in bird populations along with using informal information gathered from the public and media to assess changes in vegetation and bird life.
The project has seen a steady and consistent growth in the number of korimako and tui, including tui numbers on Napier Hill increasing four-fold and korimako three-fold since 2008. Possum damage has also reduced in parks and private gardens. Residents have reported quieter nights and a reduction in damage to buildings and that fruit trees in gardens are flourishing, flowering and fruiting as never before.
HRBC funded the process of initial control in residential spaces, including development of the programme, paying pest contractors, funding backyard bait stations, subsidising bait costs, and managing the information programme and planting days and reward vouchers.
Napier City Council and Hastings District Council funded control work in their parks and reserves as well as assisting with communications signs and planting days in some areas.
This article was first published in the August 2015 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.