Caring for the environment  |  4 Nov 2019

A new biodiversity ranger will be patrolling Banks Peninsula in an effort to control power line-hopping possums.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) and electricity lines company Orion are joining forces to control the pests and protect native plants, birds and power lines in the area.

This year Orion has had a 45 per cent increase in the number of possum strikes across its network, with 24 per cent of these occurring in Banks Peninsula.

The possums climb on to power poles and lines from nearby trees causing a high voltage electrical arc that can knock out power to hundreds of homes, farms and businesses.

Orion is sponsoring a biodiversity ranger and ‘possum control truck’ to tackle the destructive animals using trapping, toxin and bait stations.

Steve Macdonald, Orion General Manager Infrastructure, says the company has fitted possum guards on all of its wooden poles. “But, increasingly, we see possums climbing our concrete poles. This behavior, and the growing number of possums in the area, has 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.”

DOC Mahaanui Operations Manager Andy Thompson says the new five-year partnership with Orion 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.”

The project will build on DOC’s existing work to control possums on Banks Peninsula, with the department 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 co-ordinate the possum control efforts.

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 and fruits and have been filmed raiding the nests of tuī, pīwakawaka/fantails, kererū and even tītī/muttonbird.”

In large numbers they damage the entire forest canopy, threatening the viability of the forest and its ability to regenerate.

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.