The New Zealand Government has announced it wants the country to be free of its most destructive introduced predators by 2050.

New Zealand Government will initially contribute $28 million towards a joint venture

Plans to eradicate rats, possums and stoats, which kill millions of native birds each year

Environmental group says an even greater investment is needed

It plans to eradicate rats, possums and stoats, which kill millions of native birds each year.

The Government said its multi-million-dollar investment was necessary because of the threat introduced pests posed to wildlife, the economy and the primary sector.

“By 2050, every single part of New Zealand will be completely free of rats, stoats and possums,” New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said.

The New Zealand Government said it would initially contribute $28 million towards a joint-venture company called Predator Free New Zealand, which will be at the helm of the eradication program.

The company will identify pest control projects and seek out co-investors.

The funding is in addition to $60 million to $80 million spent annually on pest control.

The Government said it would also contribute a further $1 for every $2 invested by local councils and the private sector.

It said the plan was necessary because introduced pests cost the country more than $3 billion each year, and posed a threat to wildlife as well as the primary sector.

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Dr Marie Brown, a senior policy analyst for the Environmental Defence Society of New Zealand, a not-for-profit environmental organisation that has been campaigning for more investment in targeting pests, said the Government’s plan had come at a critical time for many of the animals being killed by predators.

“Predators in New Zealand are a pretty significant threat to our biodiversity and we have the highest proportion of threatened species in the world,” she said.

“So there’s lots of species that are actually just barely hanging on.”

Dr Brown said the main threat for the kiwi bird, an iconic New Zealand species, came from predators.

“They tend to protect the eggs and the chicks before they’re big enough,” she said.

“A big kiwi is pretty good at defending itself against all but say a dog, but we need to get them through that vulnerable life stage and we need to remove that key pressure from them so we can start reversing the decline of biodiversity.

“The rate of threatened species is alarmingly high, but I would say large scale pest control is our best bet to rescue a lot of our species.

“But I would also add to that protection of habitat is important as well.”

Dr Brown said she was optimistic about the plan, but said an even greater investment was needed.

“It’s certainly ambitious, and I think I’ve said vision and audacity is a good thing.

“But they can’t be too much of a strawman, so we need some serious investment and public commitment to this.

“The $28 million is a starting point but it’s not near enough.

“Prior estimates have been in the several billions dollars to achieve this, but what we’ve got is a political recognition that predators have a negative impact not just on our environment but also on our economy.

“Politically, that is very helpful in driving investment because it recognises that these guys that are chomping away on our forest and our fauna, and are really undermining our credibility in a tourism setting as well as impacting on our agricultural production

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