The goal of Oākura and the Kaitake area to be possum-free, the largest area in mainland New Zealand, is heading in the right direction thanks to the diligence of locals and experienced possum hunters.
Since January 2019 more than 300 possums have been caught by experienced possum hunters Andrea and Max Hoegh, and their two possum dogs in urban backyards, parks and reserves, in Oākura and surrounding rural properties.
The seaside town is part of a New Zealand-first trial to be possum-free as part of Towards Predator-Free Taranaki – a region-wide project removing possums and stoats from around the mountain.
The possum-free trial covers nearly 4,500 hectares and is the first time a trial of this size has been attempted across different land types in mainland New Zealand. The husband-and-wife-possum-hunting team, Andrea and Max Hoegh, work with locals, responding to reports of suspected possums in an attempt to remove possums within the target area.
“We’ve also been blown away by the overwhelming support of private landowners, giving us complete access to their property for rural predator control, which has been instrumental to our work,” Max says.
An intensive detection programme to find more possums is currently underway, using a variety of methods such as thermal imaging and motion-sensor cameras. A defence network of self-resetting traps, protecting the possum-free area from re-infestation, is also being set up around and throughout the area.
Andrea and Max are confident they’ll continue catching these predators in Oākura township, with the support of residents and their two possum dogs.
“Locals have been great, telling us if they’ve seen possums through the free-calling number 0800 736 222, It’s been really helpful,” says Max. “Our possum dogs are going well also. They will be critical to locating the final possums.”
The zero-possum trial builds on broader predator control efforts to restore Kaitake, as part of Towards Predator-Free Taranaki. Led by Taranaki Regional Council and with $11.7 million from Predator Free 2050 Ltd, the Restore Kaitake work is also supported by environmental restoration project Taranaki Mounga(external link) and community-led groups like Restore Oākura(external link), Oākura Community Board, iwi and Kaitake Ranges Conservation Trust(external link).
To help reach the goal of zero possums, if you hear, see or suspect there may be a possum in your backyard or somewhere in urban Oākura then please call 0800 736 222 or report it online - - www.trc.govt.nz/possum(external link)