The Government’s ambitious goal of making Aotearoa predator-free by 2050 has been challenged by the Green and Labour parties.
A $28-million war chest will be created to eradicate pests such as rats, possums and stoats in a new joint venture with a private company called Predator Free New Zealand Ltd.
This funding is on top of the $60 to $80 million already invested in pest control by the government every year, and the millions more contributed by local government and the private sector.
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says it’s good project, but the funding needs to be directed at the Department of Conservation (DOC) who have been under-funded for a long time.
“It's a great goal to have, but it will only work if the Government puts in resources to DOC to do the job. This government is going to rely on the private sector to pretty much fund two-thirds of this - that won't achieve the goal of predator free by 2050,” she said.
Labour’s Conservation spokesperson, Tainui-Hauraki MP Nanaia Mahuta said the predator-free initiative comes at the same time as DOC was facing major challenges to keep pest numbers down.
She told Te Karere that in terms of pest management under the Conservation Act, DOC had an obligation to consult with iwi. She said if the job of getting rid of pests was given instead to a private company such as Predator Free New Zealand Ltd then there was no requirement to consult with iwi.
“Ko te take ka toha atu ngā pūtea ki tētahi kamupene, inā ka noho ngā pūtea i raro i te maru o Te Papa Atawhai e ū tonu taua tari ki ngā take tiriti.”
(“There is no reason why the funds should be given to that private company, when it should be given to the Conversation Department who have an obligation under the Treaty.”)
Ms Mahuta said consultation with iwi was important especially with Bay of Plenty tribes such as Ngāi Tūhoe who oppose the use of the poison 1080.
But DOC spokesperson Joe Harawira told Te Karere that most iwi he was aware of, although reluctant, were prepared to accept the use of 1080 to control pests.
“There are many people who are not happy with the use of 1080 on DOC administered lands, but at the moment it is the best tool that we have. Many iwi and hapū have heard of the benefits of using 1080 on DOC estates and are promoting the use of it.
Mr Harawira said that many iwi are on board with DOC pest management programme and that if nothing is done “our precious taonga are going to be non-existent in the future.”
Despite the Green and Labour parties’ criticism of the Government’s pest-free plan, Mr Harawira said DOC was still right behind it.
“Well, unrealistic or not, it is a goal and we have an opportunity here to move forward and to do the best that we can by 2050 with the support of this kaupapa,” he said.
Although Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei believed the Government’s goal was unrealistic she was optimistic about the benefits for iwi.
“I do think they'll be some gains for some iwi and hapū based project around restoration around marae for example, wetland restoration, we've seen some great work being done by communities who are looking for more support and I hope they'll benefit out of this, but I think there will be small pockets of good work that gets done from this project, but the big hard issues around predator control won't be dealt with,” she said.