‘Project Mustelid’ training launched

16 Mar 2016, 1:26 PM

More than 40 students from five Northland schools have gathered near Kaikohe to gain hands-on knowledge of controlling stoats, ferrets and weasels as the Enviroschools programme offers its first ‘Project Mustelid’.

The chair of the Northland Regional Council’s Environmental Management Committee, Joe Carr, says the training is run under the umbrella of the Enviroschools Programme, which is funded in Northland by the council.

The new mustelid training comes after the success over the past several years of a similar programme ‘Project Possum’.

“Like its possum forerunner, Project Mustelid offers participants the chance to earn NCEA unit standard credits as well as the opportunity to secure potential work in the pest control field and reduce a harmful pest,” Cr Carr says.

Councillor Carr, who represents the council’s Hokianga-Kaikohe constituency, says mustelids (whose ranks include stoats, ferrets and weasels) were introduced to New Zealand in the 1800s.

“Stoats were originally introduced to control rabbits and ferrets to create a New Zealand fur industry, but unfortunately all introduced mustelids fairly rapidly went on to become pests in their own right.”

“Stoats are arguably the worst in terms of predating on our native species in Northland, while ferrets would be the next worst offenders locally.”

Councillor Carr says while unwanted, the weasel appears to be less of a threat in Northland both due to its small size, which limits its potential prey range, and the fact it is itself killed by stoats.

He says Project Mustelid participants have been exploring mustelid pest control, biology and environmental impacts as well as participating in practical sessions.

The course – which cost participants $280 + GST each – is split over two days, both at Trefoil Park 10km south of Kaikohe.  The first day on Tuesday March 15 was a skills workshop and will be followed on Tuesday 24 May with an assessment workshop.

“The follow-up workshop allows participants to judge how they have been putting what they had learned into practice and also check written assignments they have begun work on and will complete at school over the next few weeks.”

Joe says students for the skills workshop had come from Kaitaia College, Kamo High School, Okaihau College, Tauraroa Area School and Te Kura Taumata o Panguru.

“It’s fantastic to see young people taking an interest, and actively participating, in pest control which offers some potentially huge environmental benefits for our region,” he says.

“It’s also great that they can turn this new-found knowledge to their own advantage and secure NCEA credits; my congratulations to participants and staff for their interest and commitment.”

Joe says information on mustelids and other pests is available from the regional council’s website via: www.nrc.govt.nz/nasties