Posted By QEII National Trust | August 10, 2023

Just inland from the Otago coast, near Saddle Hill, two neighbouring QEII covenants protect 17 hectares of podocarp-broadleaf and kānuka forest. Pest control efforts in these covenants received a boost through a grant from The Stephenson Fund, enabling the landowner to keep up their good work.

The covenants are home to a wide range of native species, such as tūī, bellbird/korimako, fantail/pīwakawaka, grey warbler, kererū as well as kōura/freshwater crayfish and even the intriguing velvet worm (Peripatoides suteri). Hillary Lennox bought this property from her aunt and uncle with the long-term vision of clearing the covenants of weeds and pest animals. She hopes to give the native flora and fauna in the area the greatest chance of success.

Velvet worm (Peripatoides suteri). Photo credit: Hillary Lennox.
Photo credit: Hillary Lennox

Without a predator-proof fence, a big challenge facing most protected areas is pest animals potentially wandering freely onto the protected land. Hillary has been doing the hard yards to control rats, possums and other pests. Possum damage to forests such as these can have wide-reaching effects throughout the ecosystem. Possums are not only detrimental to the plant life that make up a significant portion of their diet, but also to the other species that rely on them. Rats also have a major impact on ecosystems because they are omnivores (eating birds, seeds, snails, lizards, fruit, insects, eggs, chicks, larvae and flowers) and also compete with native wildlife for food sources.

With the help of The Stephenson Fund, 10 AT220 traps from NZ AutoTraps were able to be installed on these covenants to target the possum and rat populations, with the cost of purchasing traps split between the fund and the landowners. The location of the traps was determined following advice from pest control experts at Ahikā Consulting Ltd and the traps were checked frequently by Hillary and her partner. “We were controlling possums via shooting previously, but this takes a lot of time and is a lot harder,” said Hillary. “I don’t think we would have had the motivation to keep doing that, but the AT220s have made it easy and satisfying,” she added.

Fierce lancewood (Pseudopanax ferox) has a threat status of At Risk – Declining. Possum browse is a serious threat to these trees. Photo credit: Cathy Rufaut

The AT220 self-resetting traps have already helped to remove around 200 possums from the QEII-protected land. Hillary sees this success as a springboard to further pest control efforts. “This has given us the motivation to do more trapping and we have also removed hedgehogs, ferrets and feral cats using other types of traps,” she said.

Over the years, The Stephenson Fund has supported pest control projects on open space covenants as part of its aim to enhance covenant stewardship. On the ground, this can mean funding to purchase traps or helping to cover the cost of specialist contractors. The Stephenson Fund has made some very exciting pest control projects, like this one, possible.

Making a start on controlling pests on protected land can be a great step towards seeing positive change in a covenant’s ecosystem. For Hillary, trapping on her covenants has provided a real sense of achievement. “It makes you feel like you’re really making a difference,” she said.

For Hillary, the process of applying for The Stephenson Fund was straightforward. “It was easy,” says Hillary. “If you have a covenant and an idea, go for it!”

Photo credit: Hillary Lennox

Applying for The Stephenson Fund

If you’re interested in applying for a grant through The Stephenson Fund, the round of funding for 2023 is open for applications until Tuesday 29 August 2023.

For more information about applying for The Stephenson Fund, take a look at the FAQ page on our website or contact your regional representative.