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Meet a Pest Free Hero – Windy Hill Sanctuary

Published: 27 November 2018

This month OurAuckland chats with one of the winners of the first-ever Mayoral Conservation Awards – the Windy Hill Sanctuary, recipient of the Eradication Award.

Windy Hill Sanctuary certainly deserves an award for their commitment to conservation. The Windy Hill Rosaline Bay Catchment Trust, the managers of the sanctuary, opened their doors way back in 2001 to support ongoing eradication work at the time. 

Today, the group’s main aim is to sustain and enhance the biodiversity on Great Barrier Island through removing invasive plants and animals.

“We’re creating exactly what the name says - a sanctuary,” says Judy Gilbert, the founding trustee of the group.

“A sanctuary where native species can flourish, threatened species can be protected, and species that have been lost to the island reintroduced.”

The group has been working on multiple fronts over the years – not only removing pests but introducing native species, monitoring populations of both pests and natives and endangered species, and researching best practice of eradication.

Committed pest-trappers, the group has removed 54,046 rats, 365 cats, 300 goats, 91 wasp nests and 140 pigs since 1999 through a range of methods, including trapping, the discreet introduction of toxins and low potency rat bait.

“We’re invested in researching and identifying the best way to execute pest control,” Judy says. “You’re looking at a lot of factors – success, socially acceptability and cost-effectiveness.”

“Great Barrier Island, and especially the area we work in, offers a vital and unusual opportunity for research. The project is a working role model of ecological restoration and our results can help pest management and eradication worldwide.”

Currently, a whopping 770 hectares are under intensive management for rats, mice, pigs, rabbits and feral cats, alongside 80km of tracks with 5550 bait and trap stations.

Meanwhile, they’ve introduced several native species including bringing rehabilitated chevron skinks in 2004, pāteke in 2011, and North Island robins in 2004, 2009, and 2012. Bird numbers per hectare have doubled, lizard sightings are now common, and weta are abundant.

Plus, an extra bonus for the community is that one of the project goals is to provide conservation-based employment. More than 20 field workers have been employed over the last 19 years, with many of them having been previously unemployed.

Meet a Pest Free Hero – Windy Hill Sanctuary (1)
Captured chevron skink

Judy is hopeful about the future and excited about receiving the award.

“We will continue to advocate for the conservation of Great Barrier and promote the vision of a pest-free Great Barrier Island," she says.

Find out more about Windy Hill Sanctuary at windyhillsanctuary.nz

To get involved with conservation work yourself, check out Pest Free Auckland 2050, a community-led conservation programme facilitated by Auckland Council or find a community group near you at Nature Space.