Our Auckland chats to Mark Harvey, who is rallying a virtual army of fellow heroes to transform Waima and Laingholm into a Pest Free Zone.
With the community busy trapping, baiting, sharing knowledge, spreading ideas and offering backup support, there are almost 500 residents involved in the project.
From the beginning
Mark says the current project was inspired by Stafford Flood, who was one of the former Sustainable Neighbourhood group coordinators. Stafford was keen to do pest free and conservation work in Laingholm Gully and when he passed away suddenly, the remaining group were moved by him to dream further afield in their pest free efforts.
So instead of just Laingholm Gully, the group launched their pest free work across all of Laingholm, plus the Waima Woodlands and a good chunk of Titirangi.
“It’s because of Stafford,” says Mark. “He inspired me to push forward this idea and now we have so many people involved. A high enough number to make a huge difference.”
The work today
Neighbourhoods are broken into smaller teams of volunteers coordinating their own traps, baits, monitoring and related practices.
Mark and a few others organised their first Argentine ant bait programme last year – with advice from Auckland Council’s Pest Free Auckland team. In the end, almost 100 properties put out the bait, with 99 per cent of traps capturing ants!
The group purchases possum and rat traps and rent some of them out, using those funds to buy more traps.
They also run public talks and go into local schools to drum up excitement about their work and the environment surrounding them, and even get the kids involved doing pest monitoring.
“We all live here because we love the forest and the native species around us,” says Mark, “so of course we want to preserve them.”
“Plus the one way to get into public forests is by doing conservation work; that’s always a bonus!”
Planning for the future, Mark and the group are looking to do more work taking on the Argentine ants – a destructive species in the Top 100 pest list who decimate native species. They’re known to eat native birds and skinks by swarming in on them.
Check out Waima to Laingholm Pest Free or head over to their Facebook page to find out more.
Plus, discover Pest Free Auckland 2050, a community-led conservation programme facilitated by Auckland Council or find a conservation group near you at Nature Space.