When rat expert Bobby Corrigan swapped the mean streets of New York for the banks of the Ōtara Stream he still expected to find a rodent or two.
But the students of Sancta Maria College in Botany are doing such a good job on their restoration efforts for the stream that runs alongside their school that not a single rat poked its nose out.
Dr Corrigan, a world-recognised rodentologist, was in Auckland to present at the Pest Management Association conference when he took time out to visit the school and see the Ōtara Creek Restoration project.
The students’ project is run in conjunction with the Pest Free Howick Ward, with Auckland Council’s Lorelle Stranaghan and Niklas Erikson coordinating efforts with the support of Howick Local Board.
The area around the school suffered badly for many years after Te Irirangi Drive and its surrounding development was completed, degenerating into a haven for weeds, dumped rubbish and rats.
But since Pest Free Howick Ward began working with the school in 2015, pest numbers have been slashed and invasive plant species have been rooted out in favour of thousands of native trees and plants so that the area is now regenerating.
Year seven and eight students worked alongside local volunteers and contractors to plant 12,000 trees funded by the Mayor Phil Goff’s Million Trees programme.
The planting is designed to improve water quality, extending as far as our harbours since the stream feeds into the Tāmaki estuary, but also provide habitat for native species, sequester carbon and prevent erosion.
Despite being one of the world’s foremost rat experts, Corrigan was delighted that no rats were to be found, saying it underlined the value of the work being done.
“It’s a wonderful example of young people taking a hands-on approach to safeguarding their environment, and it’s terrific to see such a wonderful initiative delivering good results.”
Pest Free Howick Ward operates over the entire Howick Local Board area and residents can get involved through an upcoming Pestival on 18 September at Ormiston Junior College from 7.30pm.
Those who attend get a free trap and instructions on how to use it, record their catch, where to set traps and pest disposal. For details email firstname.lastname@example.org