Wellington's latest Predator Free group to launch in Brooklyn

Predator Free Brooklyn leader David Harkness.

Predator Free Brooklyn leader David Harkness.

David Harkness is a man on a mission, in his role at the helm of the recently established Predator Free Brooklyn group which has just received a $20,000 grant to step up trapping efforts in the large Wellington suburb.

Why was Predator Free Brooklyn formed?

We began at the end of September 2016 in response to the whole Predator Free 2050 goal. It was brought together from those who were following the work of the Polhill Protectors extending the halo of native birds around Zealandia through trapping in Polhill. We have recruited 22 'street leaders' who each look after a zone in Brooklyn; Mornington, Vogeltown and Kingston and have 128 active trappers currently.

What is required of those in the area keen to be involved?

The premise is simple and proven in Crofton Downs - giving out free traps to householders, in return for them keeping them baited, monitored and reporting activity so we give them a tunnel with a rat trap and a mouse trap. The reason we give them more than one is because the rat traps are triggered on a 50g plate whereas mice are a lot smaller than that.

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Why did you want to be involved in making the suburb – and eventually Wellington – predator free?

For me, I love biking in Polhill Reserve and while lobbying to get a new descending trail I had to reach out to other users as well as environmental groups which is how I got connected with the efforts. 

What is the current goal of the group?

Getting to a critical mass of one trapper per five households has seen Crofton Downs become New Zealand's first predator free suburb and we would like Brooklyn to be the second.  

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Why the launch now, after establishing the group a few months ago?

It comes down to funding so we now have enough traps available thanks to a very generous $20,000 grant from Transpower New Zealand which has enabled us to fund their expansion toward the 1000 households needed to rid Brooklyn of rats and other predators. 

How have the other Predator Free groups around the city been a source of inspiration and guidance?

We're following Kelvin Hastie's Crofton Downs model of supplying traps to householders in return for them keeping them baited and reporting catches.  With his help, there are now 128 traps deployed in the suburb; and almost 400 rodents have been removed from circulation, tipping the odds a little toward our native birds and reptiles.

Where are the traps coming from?

We're buying the rat and mice traps from an importer but for the tunnels, we have a couple of ways of getting them. There's a company in the Hutt Valley who make them and we've also been approached by the Department of Conservation who are working with the Department of Corrections to get prisoners making the tunnel boxes at Rimutaka Prison. 

How will you monitor the group's progress?

We're keeping a database of what we're catching so there's an online form that people will fill out with information about what they caught and where. We'll share our data with other people that are doing similar things across Wellington and hopefully, the council will also have an interest in that information as well.

What have been the challenges so far?

We only have a certain amount of funding so we're trying to get a wide spread and a lot of community uptake with limited resources. We're giving out stuff for free in return for data and that's how we want to keep it which means having to apply for grants regularly. Unfortunately, a lot of the funding bodies require you to be an incorporated society in order to be eligible but we have now signed a partnering agreement with Forrest and Bird so they will act as our umbrella organisation. It gives us an opportunity to use their society as our funding vehicle, giving us access to a lot of experience and advice.

*Predator Free Brooklyn launch event, Vogelmorn Bowling Club, August 5, 1-4pm. Sign-up by emailing PredatorFreeBrooklyn@gmail.com with your name and addresss.

 - Stuff

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