Rats run amok in historic seaside suburb on Auckland's North Shore
Rats are running rampant in an historic Auckland suburb, after two years of a rodent mating free-for-all on a volcanic cone.
Mt Victoria in the seaside suburb of Devonport has had rat traps prohibited since a Maori authority took over its care, under a Treaty settlement, in 2014.
But, with Devonport residents complaining of a rat epidemic in the surrounding streets, after a warm winter, the Tūpuna Maunga Authority will install bait stations across Mt Victoria prior to Christmas.
Roger Giles has run the Devonport Folk Club situated on top of Mt Victoria since 1970 and says rat numbers are particularly bad this year.
"I said to the Maunga [Authority] it's a serious problem. Everyone tells me they've got rats in their garden, rats in their roofs and it's noted in Devonport," Giles said.
"A pair of rats, I've been told, in a 12-month period they'll have 5000 rats [babies] in a year."
Tūpuna Maunga manager Scott De Silva said there have been pest-control measures focusing on possums and rabbits on Mt Victoria since 2014, but they are now widening them to rats.
"Mt Victoria will be the first maunga to receive the benefits of a new rat-control programme," De Silva said.
"If successful, that programme will be rolled out to other maunga over the next few years."
The likely bait to be used will be diphacinone, which De Silva says is considered the safest available - staying in the soil the least amount of time and having an antidote vets can administer to pets.
But Giles is sceptical of the Tupuna Maunga Authority's past pest-control targets.
"I walk around here every day, I'd know if there were possums. Once you've gone through all the species, rabbits, moas, the works, you'll finally find the only thing there is is bloody rats," Giles said.
Reported encounters with rats have increased throughout the Devonport community over the last year.
"We've lived here for 25 years and we'd been in our house nearly 20 years before we had a rat. Certainly, in the last year, it's been a lot worse I think," Devonport resident Tania Stewart said.
Devonport Primary School is located at the base of Mt Victoria and principal Melinda Bennett says pupil-rat interactions are a common occurrence in the playground.
"It's not uncommon to find a child dangling sushi - offering it to the rats," Bennett said.
Despite the lack of traps on Mt Victoria itself, the Devonport Peninsular Trust has been provided with around 50 rat bait stations from Auckland Council for residents to pick up free of charge.
One Devonport resident who did so was Graham Pettersen, who caught two rats in his first week using the trap:
"Rats are an ongoing issue, there are always rats around. It's quite normal to use a trap and we bait it with peanut butter but at two times of the year we're supposed to be using poison for a short period. Because you get a much better kill rate. The rats don't get bait shy."