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Pack your bags, you’re leaving town

Published: 19 July 2017
A bunch of school kids will use a grant from Howick Local Board for traps to send rats packing from their neighbourhood. 

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Grant helping kids tackle rat problem

Farm Cove Intermediate School wants to send rats packing and now has the tools to do it with a grant from Howick Local Board enabling it to purchase 170 re-usable rat traps.

Specialist science teacher Lynn Dunbar applied for the grant because she thinks a cluster of school science classes could make a real difference in making Howick/Pakuranga Auckland’s first rat-free suburb.

“We had 120 people, including groups like scouts, at a community meeting and now we have five schools ready to go with their trakka tunnels and traps.

“We’ll start with ridding schools of rats and then move into reserves and parks, and onto private addresses. The idea is to clear an area and move outwards.”

But, there’s more to this just trapping rats.  

“We want to send the rats packing, but we’re also engaging our children in authentic learning which dovetails into the science curriculum,” says Lynn.

“Howick is an ideal test-ground because it’s on a peninsula and by uploading results into CatchIT, a pest control database at the University of Auckland, we’ll track how well the programme is doing.”

The efforts by the schools are a great example of how local communities can help deliver Auckland Council’s Pest Free Auckland by 2050 strategy.

The project also fits well with the outcome included in the Howick Local Board Plan for a treasured local environment that is preserved for future generations.

Working with other community groups

The local board wants to increase opportunities to partner with schools, community groups and local business on environmental programmes such as tree planting and weed and pest eradication.

Among some of the other environmental initiatives the local board already delivers is an annual project to remove the invasive moth plant and Rhamnus, by setting up disposal bins.

The council’s sustainable schools advisor Cate Jessep says there is growing interest and understanding from local schools about the importance of pest eradication.

“Students, teachers and principals are motivated by imagining how many endemic birds from nearby pest free Islands in Hauraki Gulf will be visiting Howick schools, backyards, parks and reserves.

 “Three more Enviroschools want to start trapping rats in term three. If this interest continues over the next two years, culminating in students from all 43 Howick schools being involved in the pilot, and they encouraged five other households in their street to trap rats too, could Howick become Auckland’s first pest free suburb?”

Cate says students love the idea that if they kill pest animals and plants, they can welcome back more birds and lizards into their backyards.