Hamilton's Hammond Bush prime example of urban predator-free movement

Riverlea Environment Society lead predator free advocate Andrea Graves (far right) at Hammond Park with (l-r) Adrienne ...
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Riverlea Environment Society lead predator free advocate Andrea Graves (far right) at Hammond Park with (l-r) Adrienne Grant, Anne Ferrier-Watson, John Badham and Predator-Free Hamilton Trust chairman Kemble Pudney

It's one of the last stands of old forest left in the city.

From the Waikato River below and up the steep bush-clad banks to the Hamilton residential street above, Hammond Park has got a lot of ecological values going for it.

Remnant stands of swamp maire and tawa dot the narrow corridor of native bush that leads from the Mangaonua Stream at the southern end of the city toward the Hamilton Gardens.

Tui, kereru and ruru live there, as do the city's night dwellers: the long tailed bats. 

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And so do rats and possums. Battling these invasive pest species is the Riverlea Environment Society - a nine-year-old community group dedicated to turning this little chunk of Hamilton into a predator-free haven.

"We are aiming to have not only Hammond Park be predator free - there is already trapping going on - but all of Riverlea and that includes the houses, the businesses in the industrial area and the local school and kindergarten," said the society's lead predator-free advocate, Andrea Graves.

Hamilton City Council and Waikato Regional Council trap extensively through the park, but tracts of native bush are in private hands.

And predators don't care about wire fences and surveyed boundaries.

Hammond Park has more biodiversity - both plant and animal species - than any other remnant bush in Hamilton, Graves said, and the society wants to keep it that way.

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"There are no wars these days, but there is an enemy to fight and everyone dislikes rats and everyone loves the native bird song."

The government's predator-free 2050 goal was announced in July and Graves said it's winning the hearts and minds of New Zealanders.

Kemble Pudney from Pest Free Hamilton, the group trying to rid the Onukutara Gully at Chartwell of pests, is backing the Riverlea Society's bid to be one of five Kiwibank Predator Free communities.

The bank is sponsoring a fund for community groups around New Zealand to help purchase traps and monitoring equipment. Its goal is to have traps in every fifth backyard in neighbourhoods around the country.

Pudney said Hammond Park is a prime example of what can be done.

"There are tremendous values here now, but there are other areas in the city that will get done," Pudney said.

Thirteen communities from around the country have applied and the Riverlea group is one of two Waikato entrants. Voting closes on November 25.

"The start that is being made here is really exciting, considering what can be done right across the whole town."

 - Stuff

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