Response to Ron Morrison letter in September SIN

In the September Stewart Island News, Ron Morrison reiterated his idea of delaying the eradication until the technology for eradicating the rest of the island is perfected, as it might circumvent the need to use a predator fence.

We have responded to similar questions on the website and in the August issue of SIN, so we will briefly revisit those responses before we look at the couple of new points Ron has raised. The Governance Group has previously responded to Ron’s suggestion, which we will summarise below:

  • Buffers/ zones are unproven technologies for an eradication. We don’t know if using a buffer or zones would work in a large-scale eradication, let alone their cost. The Governance Group doesn’t think it makes sense to wait for a technology that we don’t even know will work – a fence may still end up being needed. Sandy King’s article in the September SIN reinforced the difficulties in using a buffer as opposed to a barrier given current technology.
  • We do have the technology to complete the Halfmoon Bay project, so why delay those benefits? The Governance Group has discussed the economic, social & ecological benefits of the Halfmoon Bay project extensively. We have conservatively estimated the benefits at $10m in annual tourism revenue, an additional 88 jobs and an increase of 119 people to the population of Oban (including 9 extra children in the school). Waiting for an unproven technology would mean delaying these benefits and possibly putting them permanently at risk – as by then funders may have moved on to other projects.
  • There is a need for significant investment to make Predator Free Rakiura a reality – why make that investment without the community on side? The answer is it won’t happen without the community onside, meaning the island, many native species and greater NZ would miss out. An eradication over the whole of Rakiura and surrounding islands could cost around $50 million. Even before this can be done, a massive investment needs to be made in research and development to work out how such an eradication would be undertaken. The government and other funders are unlikely to fund this work if it was unclear that the Oban community was behind the project.

Ron raised a few new points in his letter to the September SIN.

Firstly he pointed out that Predator Free Oban does not have the same marketing appeal as Predator Free Rakiura. This is a fair point, but it overlooks the points made above. A Predator Free Oban would spur investors to fund the research needed to advance a Predator Free Rakiura. Without a Predator Free Oban, it is unlikely the investment needed for a Predator Free Rakiura would be made. Funders with an interest in predator free New Zealand are likely to focus on other projects, such as Great Barrier Island, the Chatham Islands, or peninsula based projects on the mainland (such as a possum-free Coromandel or Northland).

Secondly, Ron criticised the Economic Appraisal because it did not “encourage the community to develop a strategy that will capitalize on the opportunity being offered by Predator Free Rakiura.” A strategy would certainly be a good idea if the Predator Free Rakiura proposal proceeds. As the report mentions, the benefits will only be realized by those willing to take the opportunities a project of this scale presents. However, preparing such a strategy doesn’t make sense until all partners are in agreement to move ahead with the Predator Free Rakiura proposal.

  • NGM123

    Go for it, embrace it, what a staggering opportunity this is to create a worlds best environment. What a legacy for future generations. It would make me want to live on Stewart Island, what a brilliant way to show the world that we can turn back time and make a massive statement on behalf of mother nature, a truly magnificent once in a life time opportunity.