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Student leaders eliminating pesky pests

Rangitoto College student Sophie Haine is passionate about pests – she is leading a project to eliminate the pesky critters attacking birds, insects and vegetation at the Te Hōnonga a Iwi restoration site.

Sophie, 14, is just one of many youth leaders volunteering their time to support the work underway at Rosedale Park. She and fellow student volunteer Matthew Lee, a Kristin School student, carry out weekly monitoring of a trapline currently running along Alexandra Stream behind North Harbour Hockey to Rosedale Road.

The pair plan to extend the trapline through the southern end of the park, behind the North Harbour Softball carpark and the restoration site.

Once that is set up, the programme will be trapping pests along a 1.2km trapline.

Sophie says there have been five possums and a hedgehog caught since she started working on the pest control programme in June.

There are a variety of traps and bait along the line designed to attract rats, possums and any mustelids (ferrets or stoats) that find their way into the park. Bait stations will be phased out and replaced by traps made to catch rats and smaller pests as part of Te Hōnonga a Iwi Restoring Rosedale Park’s commitment to a chemical-fee approach.

“We need to get rid of the pests to protect the vegetation,” Sophie says. “They also go after the birds in the park and eat insects which are an important part of the ecosystem.”

A plan to attach chew cards to trees along the trapline will help the team find out which pests are present in the park. It’s possible to identify the species by the bite marks left when they remove the bait on the cards.

Sophie took over an existing trapline set up by Steve Cammell, who works in the Rosedale area, and, with his sons, monitored traps in the park for about 10 years.

“Steve showed us how to do everything.”

Sophie and Matt have also had help from Auckland Council park ranger Dan Morrow who has supplied extra traps and instructions on how to set them up.

The pair record their findings using the Trap NZ app, a free service available throughout New Zealand for recording trap, bait, monitoring, and biodiversity outcome data.

Tim Johnson, from the Upper Waitemata Ecology Network mapped the trapline using GPS, then each trap location was entered into the app. The app tracks data including species of pest caught, bait used, condition of the trap, any repairs required and how often the trap is monitored.

Tim, who is an animal pest management specialist, has also helped ensure Sophie and Matt are using best pest control practices and following Auckland Council guidelines.

Te Hōnonga a Iwi Restoring Rosedale Park project co-ordinator Nicky Shave says as the restoration continues, a second trap line may be needed on the other side of Alexandra Stream.

Sophie, a North Harbour hockey player, got involved with the project after seeing a notice calling for volunteers on the hockey website. Currently in Year 9, she is a member of the Student Volunteer Army and participates in the Duke of Edinburgh Award programme. All the work she does at Rosedale Park contributes to those endeavours.

But her commitment to helping the environment goes back to her childhood. Sophie recalls family holidays at Kawau Island where the ranger explained how pests were attacking the local Kiwi population. “I think it’s always been at the back of my mind.”

She hopes to keep working on the pest control programme throughout her time at secondary school, saying it’s got to be a long-term project. “We can decline the pest population but they will always keep coming back.”

Luckily she’s not too squeamish about the less savoury aspects of the work.

“I don’t think of it as a dead possum. I think of it as a live bird.”

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