More than $4 million has been earmarked for a Dunedin project aimed to rid the region of predators.
Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage announced the Predator Free 2050 funding at a launch in Dunedin this morning.
The Dunedin project is the first in the South Island to receive funding, which will be used to achieve predator-free status over 31,000 hectares.
Ms Sage said the Otago community had shown its conservation leadership through successful projects such as Orokonui Ecosanctuary and Orokonui Halo.
“I look forward to seeing the return to the city of healthier populations of native plants and wildlife and a continued increase in public involvement in creating safe spaces for our distinctive indigenous species,” she said.
The funding will contribute to the five-year, $15 million Predator Free Dunedin project.
Predator Free Dunedin’s Rhys Millar says the funding was an important catalyst for the ambitious project.
“It really underpins the ambitions for the Predator Free collective,” Mr Millar said.
In the past two years, more than 20,000 possums from the Mt Cargill area and about 17,000 possums from the Otago Peninsula have been removed.
“Stoats have been an issue very recently with the invasion of Orokonui Ecosanctuary about two years ago, which resulted in the decimation of the Saddleback population within the ecosanctuary,” Mr Millar said.
The return of taonga species such as the South Island kākā, hoiho, South Island robin and rifleman would be visible signs of success, he said.
These species have not been sighted in the region.
The programme aimed to eradicate possums from the 9000ha Otago Peninsula and to reduce rats, possums, weasels, ferrets and stoats populations across 12,500ha of land surrounding Orokonui Ecosanctuary, between Aramoana, Waitati and North East Valley over five years.
More than 20 organisations joined together to form the Predator Free Dunedin Charitable Trust.
The project has garnered the support from the Otago Regional Council, with $1.5m tagged for the next five years to the project.
Council chairman Stephen Woodhead said the council hoped it would become a city-wide initiative.
“There is considerable activity occurring around pest management across Otago, but this community-led approach is an exemplar for the rest of the region,” Mr Woodhead said.
“This is a project of reasonable scale and one of which, those involved should be immensely proud.”
The Dunedin City Council has also backed the project, contributing $850,000 and providing further support through its predator management budget.