oil painting of South island Tomtit by Peter Jean Caley
Stewart Island interests are considering an ambitious $35 million proposal to eradicate rats, wild cats and possums from the island.
The proposal has initial support from parts of the community but is likely to be vehemently opposed by deer hunters. It includes a predator fence around the settlement of Oban and plans for widespread aerial poison drops.
Described as New Zealand’s biggest conservation project, it aims to “make Stewart Island the Galapagos of the South”.
Copies of the proposal have been given to community groups and key “stakeholders” before a public meeting on April 3.
The “draft feasibility study” has been prepared by the Stewart Island/Rakiura Community and Environment Trust, with support from the Department of Conservation and the Tindall Foundation.
Proposed “border control” measures could include teams of rodent-checking dogs monitoring departures from Bluff and Invercargill and arrivals on the island.
It is hoped bird species such as kakapo, saddleback, mohua, kokako and teal may eventually be reintroduced to Stewart Island.