Partnering to protect native birds and power lines

1 November 2019

The Department of Conservation (DOC) and Orion have joined forces to protect native plants, birds and power lines on Banks Peninsula in Canterbury by controlling possums.

High numbers of possums on the peninsula are damaging the environment and causing power outages where possums have interfered with the power network.

DOC and Orion are now teaming up to bring possum numbers down with a new ranger and ‘possum control truck’ hitting the hills to target thousands of possums.

Possum Possum Credit DOC

DOC Mahaanui Operations Manager Andy Thompson says the new five-year partnership will be a game changer for protecting native wildlife and forest on conservation land on Banks Peninsula.

“By removing this bush canopy browser and predator, we will be helping to regenerate native bush and forest on Banks Peninsula while also improving the breeding success of native forest birds like tuī, which have been reintroduced to the area.

“Increased possum control on DOC-managed land will contribute towards a pest free Banks Peninsula, along with work by councils and the community to control possums in other areas.”

Orion is also experiencing a possum problem. This year Orion has had a 45% increase in the number of possum strikes across its network, with 24% of those occurring in Banks Peninsula.

“Possums are climbing up our poles and getting onto powerlines from nearby trees, causing a high voltage electrical arc, which knocks out power to hundreds of homes, farms and businesses,” says Steve Macdonald, Orion General Manager Infrastructure.

“We’ve fitted possum guards on all our wood poles, but increasingly we see possums climbing our concrete poles. This behavior and the growing number of possums in the area have increased the problem.

“Working with DOC, we hope to get on top of the possum issue and reduce the number of power cuts for the community.”

Under the partnership, Orion will sponsor the new biodiversity ranger and vehicle. The project will build on DOC’s existing work to control possums on Banks Peninsula, with DOC employing the ranger and planning and monitoring the possum control work.

The ranger will work closely with Christchurch City Council, Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust and Environment Canterbury to coordinate the control efforts using trapping, toxin and bait stations to reduce possum numbers. They will also run trapping workshops to share advice on the best ways to control possums in other parts of the peninsula. 

Possums eat native birds, wētā, flowers, fruits, buds and nectar and have been filmed raiding the nests of tuī, pīwakawaka/fantails, kererū and even tītī/muttonbird.”

In large numbers possums damage the entire forest canopy, threatening the viability of the forest and its ability to regenerate. They target native plants like whauwhaupaku/five finger, tōtara, makomako/wineberry and māhoe.

The project supports the goals of Predator Free 2050 and Pest Free Banks Peninsula—a collaborative community programme which aims to protect and enhance native plants and animals on the peninsula.

Background information
DOC is one of several agencies controlling possums on Banks Peninsula
. To achieve maximum effect, DOC, ECan and Christchurch City Council co-ordinate their operations to control possums across all land on the Peninsula at least once every three years.

DOC and Orion will use a mixture of trapping, toxins and bait stations to control possums with the type of control depending on the location, weather and what has been used there previously. DOC adheres to all industry standards and ensures toxins are located away from tracks and amenity areas, and signs warning of their use are installed.

Pest Free Banks Peninsula is a community-led collaborative programme that aims to protect and enhance biodiversity on the 115,000-hectare peninsula through the widespread eradication of animal pests. It includes signatories from more than a dozen participating groups and agencies including the Banks Peninsula Conservation Trust, DOC, Christchurch City Council, ECan and Ngāi Tahu rūnanga.