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Under the initiative, Kiwibank and Predator Free New Zealand Trust will establish the Kiwibank Predator Free Communities Programme.  Communities wanting to take up the predator free challenge will be supported through subsidised traps, advice and expertise with the long-term goal of setting a trap in every fifth backyard.

Kiwibank will also resource DOC’s Conservation Dogs programme.  This will allow DOC to pilot New Zealand’s first specialist conservation dog unit with two full-time dog handlers. The unit is expected to increase both surveillance and the number of quarantine inspections by 15%.  It will also allow DOC to respond faster to pest incursions.

Kiwibank CEO Paul Brock said the bank’s nationwide reach would help New Zealanders win the nation’s biggest conservation battle.“We believe this is a challenge that is bigger than each of us but not bigger than all of us.”

“Wellington’s Crofton Downs suburb, which recently became predator free, shows how volunteerism and community spirit can achieve the exceptional.  Similarly, DOC’s world-leading Conservation Dogs initiative has achieved remarkable results in the conservation of endemic species like the kākāpō, kiwi and takahē.”

“We’re going to help these human and four-legged volunteers take up the predator free challenge and make achieving New Zealand’s ‘Apollo Project’ a reality.”

DOC’s Conservation Dogs programme uses highly trained dogs and professional handlers for conservation work with protected species. Today there are 80 conservation dogs in New Zealand – 45 find protected species, 35 find pests.  The two full time conservation dog handlers will join DOC’s team of 67 part-time handlers.

DOC’s Director General Lou Sanson said DOC was delighted to welcome Kiwibank as a partner to its Conservation Dog programme.

“Working together with Kiwibank will help us to unleash the potential of these incredible dogs and means we will be able to do more conservation and quarantine work on our pest-free islands.”

In 2014, Crofton Downs became the country’s first predator-free suburb.  The goal of the Kiwibank partnership is to take the Crofton Downs model to every community in New Zealand.  Initially, 10 residential communities will be supported by the Kiwibank Predator Free Communities programme.

Sir Rob Fenwick, Chairman of Predator Free New Zealand, said he wants birds back in the burbs.

“The war on predators is widening to drive rats, possums and stoats out of towns and places where lots of people live.”

“This partnership will offer support to communities that want to clean out predators.  We’ll help neighbourhoods with sourcing traps and equipment; providing advice on project management and monitoring predator numbers.

“Future generations will wonder why we tolerated allowing these filthy exotic predators to take over New Zealand.  Rats, possums, and stoats live where people live – in towns and cities. As well as predating on our wildlife they carry serious diseases.

“The secret weapon in this battle is our army of volunteers.  Countless New Zealanders dedicating millions of hours to protecting nature.

“We’re delighted Kiwibank want to partner with us. They know what it is to be ‘uniquely kiwi’. We want to link up with their one million customers and thousands of staff members all over the land, to lend us a hand,” he said.

Communities interested in becoming predator free can contact Predator Free New Zealand (www.predatorfreenz.org) to find out more. Individuals wanting to do their part by controlling predators in their backyards can also find advice and information on predatorfreenz.org.

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