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Predator Free Stewart Island – What’s next

Some of you may have been following my interest in exploring the idea of a predator-free Stewart Island. This open letter below to the people of Stewart Island, published yesterday in the Stewart Island News, should bring you up to speed in what we have been up to and some of the reasons why I am interested in the project.

[message_box title=”To the Stewart Island Community” color=”grey”]

I want to thank the people of Stewart Island for extending their wonderful hospitality to me and my team when we visited in early October. We had a wonderful few days and although I was a little under the weather, I enjoyed tremendously talking to the community about the possibility of pursuing a predator-free Stewart Island. I learned a lot about the concerns of islanders about the community’s economic future, including the costs of power and stopping population fall so that services can be maintained. But I also saw for myself a wide range of business and community initiatives and came away thinking what a resilient bunch you are.

My visit culminated in the meeting at the community centre where I presented some impressions from the last couple of visits I’ve had to the subantarctics where I’ve seen the results of the work done by DOC and the Australian Wildlife Service – the before and after impacts of pest eradication on Enderby, Campbell and now MacQuarie. It is absolutely outstanding in terms of the net gains to flora and fauna – something you can’t really appreciate until you visit those locations. Nobody who’s been there could possibly argue otherwise – which of course is why those organisations have gained such an international reputation for their work.

It was great to be shown around Ulva by the folks living and maintaining that – wonderful, the bird life was just stunning compared to the forests we are used to on the mainland.

I left the public meeting with a resolution for you to express your views on, and over the subsequent two weeks you expressed those through the dropbox at the supermarket. That resolution was;

I support in principle the concept of a predator free Stewart Island / Rakiura but would like to know more before proving any plan – Yes / No

When the results came in the numbers were 163 votes cast, 137 are in favour, 26 against. So an 84% endorsement of those who expressed a view. That’s enough encouragement for me to proceed to the next stage which is to get a technical roadmap of how to achieve the predator eradication, how to maintain the predator-free status, and what the economic impact of such an initiative is expected to be on the island, Southland, and New Zealand. Currently I’m determining whether these reports can be assembled, and if that occurs they will of course then be circulated for scrutiny and discussion.

So thank you for the marvellous hospitality, and Brent Beaven of DOC for facilitating the visit, and of course for his great work in assembling the 2008 report which brought this project to the attention of a wider audience.

I will keep you informed on any progress made.

Kind regards

Gareth[/message_box]

Of course this idea has raised the interest of locals and non locals alike and there are many questions to be answered as part of a process moving forward. To address several issues which have already been raised please see the responses below in the Stewart Island news from local DOC representative Bren Bevan.