Leona's going to get her rabbit

Leona, Chase and Bail head south

HAMISH CARDWELL
Last updated 12:37 25/01/2013
Leona Plaisier
Getting Prepped: Marlborough Sounds resident Leona Plaisier, 18, stocks up on gear at Hunting and Fishing sports shop in Blenheim, before heading out on a 10-month stint as a pest eradicator on Macquarie Island, a subantarctic island between Tasmania and Antarctica.
Leona Plaisier
Rodent Detection Dog Team for Tui Nature Reserve Wildlife Trust

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On Macquarie Island the wind never stops blowing, it rains constantly, the average temperature is seven degrees and in winter it is only daylight for a couple of hours a day - and for the next 10 months, 18-year-old Leona Plaisier will call this charming place home.

The Marlborough Sounds resident and her two dogs Chase and Bail are heading to the subantarctic island to do pest eradication under contract to the Australian government.

Ms Plaisier will spend her days systematically scouring the island, carrying a heavy pack and rifle, hunting its three remaining rabbits, and dispatching any rats and mice she comes across.

She said the 34-by-5 kilometre island was a World Heritage Site and a haven for native penguins, elephant seals and birds.

"I wanted to have an experience and to work with dogs and a great way to get this experience is on the island. It is such a beautiful, unique place, especially now that it is about to go predator free. Being part of that process is just amazing."

The hardest part about the trip would be missing her family, particularly her 4-year-old sister, and not being able to eat as healthily as she would like.

"They run out of fresh food after a certain amount of time and you have to take vitamin D tablets. They only have three hours of sunlight."

Ms Plaisier's upbringing may have played a part in her being suited to such a job. She grew up with her parents and siblings as the only residents on a peninsula in Waitata Bay in the outer Pelorus Sound.

Her family bred lizards, birds and giant weta for the Tui Nature Reserve Wildlife Trust, and she has been doing pest eradication around the Marlborough Sounds with her dog since she was 14, she said.

She came to public attention recently as one of the youngest and most vocal opponents of the proposed new salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds.

Ms Plaisier said that on Macquarie Island it would be quite different being at such close quarters with people who were not her family because she would share a small hut with two or three others when out on patrol.

"It should not be too much of an issue though," she said.

Ms Plaisier departs on February 19 and said the first couple of weeks would be strange.

"It will just be learning the hard way, as you do in life."

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- The Marlborough Express

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