Rats at re­serve dis­gusts pic­nicker

Coun­cil says pest con­trol not pos­si­ble in well-used area

Bay of Plenty Times - - LOCAL NEWS - Kiri Gille­spie

Amis­chief of rats spot­ted at a pop­u­lar Bay of Plenty pic­nic spot has sparked calls for bet­ter pest con­trol in the Western Bay of Plenty, but au­thor­i­ties say peo­ple need to do their bit, too.

Wel­come Bay res­i­dent Dave Ho­ran was en­joy­ing lunch with fam­ily at Maketu¯ Park Road Re­serve when he saw nine rats on the grass a few me­tres away.

“There’s only a nar­row strip be­tween the carpark and the kids’ play­ing area, and there were nine of them, nine rats running around. That’s where peo­ple sit and have their lunch and kids play.”

Ho­ran was “dis­gusted” and con­tacted the Western Bay of Plenty Dis­trict Coun­cil to raise his con­cerns. When he re­ceived a call back a few days later, the woman told Ho­ran the coun­cil was un­able to do any­thing, “be­cause peo­ple walk along there and walk their dogs”, he said.

“I was bloody shocked. Here are kids play­ing on the swings and peo­ple hav­ing Christ­mas lunch like we were, and we counted nine rats running around.”

Ho­ran said the coun­cil’s stance

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was “not good enough”. Coun­cil re­serves and facilities man­ager Peter Wat­son said the coun­cil was aware of Ho­ran’s sight­ing, which was one of two Western Bay rats com­plaints within the past six months.

Wat­son would not say whether there was an in­fes­ta­tion but said the coun­cil would con­tinue to mon­i­tor the Maketu¯ sit­u­a­tion and take ac­tion, such as send­ing a cer­ti­fied pest con­trol op­er­a­tor to as­sess the scene, if nec­es­sary.

The coun­cil checked Maketu¯ re­serves daily to en­sure bins were emp­tied and bar­be­cues cleaned but “to put bait or traps on pub­lic land where there are chil­dren and an­i­mals would not be a wise ac­tion”, he said.

The sec­ond com­plaint in­volved rats at­tracted to rub­bish at a va­cant house in Lyn­d­hurst Ave, Lit­tle Waihi, which has since been re­solved.

The coun­cil was part of a Preda­tor Free Bay of Plenty group pro­mot­ing landowner back­yard rat con­trol as part of a Preda­tor Free 2050 pro­gramme and, as a re­sult, many peo­ple were ac­tively trap­ping rats in the Maketu¯ and Te Puke area. How­ever, the group was look­ing for more vol­un­teers to “also do their bit by trap­ping rats on their own prop­erty”.

The coun­cil’s re­spon­si­bil­ity un­der the Re­serves Act is to con­trol pest an­i­mals on pub­lic land only. Un­der the Biose­cu­rity Act, an­i­mal pest con­trol on pri­vate land is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the landowner. The trouble was rats did not recog­nise such bound­aries, Wat­son said.

Tau­ranga City Coun­cil be­longs to the same preda­tor-free group.

Nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment co-or­di­na­tor Dianne Pa­ton said too many peo­ple treated pest con­trol as a coun­cil-only prob­lem.

Vol­un­teer en­vi­ron­men­tal groups had al­ready been a huge help — par­tic­u­larly in Maketu¯ — but “we are try­ing to em­power peo­ple to take a bit more own­er­ship”.

Pa­ton had al­ready of­fered traps to peo­ple who lived near city re­serves and said rat con­trol was in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant to pro­tect wildlife.

Preda­tor Free Bay of Plenty had a goal of help­ing New Zealand be­come preda­tor-free by 2050.

Photo / Ge­orge No­vak

Dave Ho­ran is con­cerned by the num­ber of rats he saw in a Maketu¯ re­serve, say­ing more ac­tion from the coun­cil is needed.

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