An eradication programme partly funded by the island’s part-owner Sir Michael Fay and involving DOC expertise has wiped out the population of introduced kiore, ship rats and feral cats.
“Sir Michael’s commitment to this project with DOC has produced a result that they could not have achieved working by themselves,” Ms Barry says.
“Forging a partnership with DOC’s scientific knowledge and the commitment of local volunteers has enabled the island to become a safe haven for native wildlife.”
After the rat eradication in 2014, two years of surveillance and regular pest-hunting dog patrols have found no rodents remaining on the 1872 hectare island.
“We’re now able to formally declare Great Mercury/Ahuahu pest-free,” Ms Barry says.
Today’s announcement means the entire Mercury island group, along with the nearby iwi-owned Ohinau group and the Aldermen Islands, is pest free.
The eastern Coromandel islands are home to a tusked weta found nowhere else in the world, kaka, saddleback, little spotted kiwi, tuatara, ten different species of lizards and hundreds of thousands of seabirds.
“Since 2014 Great Mercury already seen the return of kakariki and seabirds which had been driven off it by pests – a sure sign the eradication has worked,” Ms Barry says.
“As a result, the chain of islands has become a showcase for New Zealand’s island conservation management.”
Sir Michael says the goal of removing pests from the island has been achieved but the real challenge – keeping it that way – will require constant vigilance.
“We gladly celebrate this milestone on Ahuahu today, but these islands are still at risk because all it takes is for one person to allow a stowaway pest on their boat to escape and undo all the hard work that has gone on here in recent years,” he says.
For more information on the Great Mercury Island/Ahuahu pest eradication project visit www.doc.govt.nz/our-work/ahuahu-great-mercury-island/
I spent a school year on GMI, supervising the then-manager’s children’s correspondence lessons.
I went back last year and was very impressed with the improvements since I’d left around 30 years ago.
Pasture, stock, fences, tracks and buildings were all of a much higher standard than they’d been.
Instead of gorse taller than me, there were pine trees with natives regenerating in their shelter. The challenge now is removing the pines without damaging the natives.
The bird population was also much bigger since they were no longer in danger from mice, rats and cats.
This is a significant achievement for made possible by the owners working with DoC to protect and enhance native birds.