Five major dairy companies today joined NEXT Foundation, DOC and philanthropists Sam and Gareth Morgan in a dramatic partnership.

Together they endeavour to dramatically transform the way invasive predators are managed on mainland New Zealand.

The commitment of $5 million will accelerate the pace of research and development (R&D) capabilities and testing of the Zero Invasive Predators (ZIP) programme.

At a press briefing today in the Marlborough Sounds NEXT Foundation Chairman, Chris Liddell said, “A core tenet of NEXT Foundation’s philanthropic efforts is to accelerate game-changing large-scale transformational environmental initiatives.  The partnership represents what we believe is a great model for New Zealand – where the public sector, the private sector and the philanthropic sector come together to achieve a great result for our country.”

The vision is ambitious – to ensure the long-term resilience of New Zealand’s biodiversity by completely removing rats, stoats and possums from large areas of the mainland, and keeping them out.

These invasive predators cause the majority of damage to New Zealand’s native biodiversity, killing an estimated 25 million native birds each year.  Department of Conservation projections show that if we don’t come up with better ways to remove these predators, then even the iconic kiwi could face extinction on the mainland within our grandchildren’s lifetime.

As well as posing a major threat for our native birdlife, possums are a carrier of bovine tuberculosis, an infectious disease that can affect cattle and deer.  Therefore it makes sense for the dairy industry to get involved in stepping up the work to remove these predators.

Speaking for the dairy industry Fonterra CEO, Theo Spierings says, “Diseases and pests are a threat to dairy farming and the New Zealand environment. Farmers already lose millions of dollars due to predators and we want to get behind efforts that accelerate the eradication of pests in New Zealand and protect agricultural incomes.”

ZIP strives to be the difference and enable wide-scale restoration of our native species.

ZIP will cast a net far and wide for ground breaking predator management technologies working alongside researchers and engineers to develop the complete set of tools to tackle these invasive predators and rid them from large scale areas on the mainland.

“Working with the dairy industry will give us access to the dairy farms of New Zealand who are on the front line of the fight against invasive species and allow us to accurately assess the physical and reputational damage that inadequate pest control brings to New Zealand and its strongest export sector,” says Liddell.

NEXT Foundation has been involved in active applied research and pilots in the Marlborough Sounds in partnership with DOC for several months. The partnership will further this work on a wider scale including investigating potential solutions such as advanced lures, remote detection, and deterrent technologies.