The why.

Several times I’ve been asked why I’m doing this Predator Free ‘thing’.

It’s a simple question with no simple answer, but perhaps the best word to describe it is community.

We saw 100’s at the Napier launch and 100’s again at the Havelock North launch last weekend. I’ve met with volunteer conservation groups, school groups, businesses and ‘every day people’ – ‘good buggers’ all of them.

We now have over 1000 traps in the community, but the work has just begun and we’ve got a long way to go.

However, yesterday was typical of the sort of thing that has this boomer believing that the future will be in good hands and the best we can do is continue to nurture and foster them; and PFUHB and other predator free programs are doing just that.

I met with Lucy, Charlie and Finn at Hastings Christian School after they had approached me about supporting the program. Great kids doing good things and conducting themselves admirably (…and Lucy’s parents had got a trap at the Havelock launch and caught a big rat almost immediately).

Origami and thank you card from Lucy, Charlie and Finn

Spending time with school groups (I’ve lost count) is a high priority for me – they are the future guardians, our kaitiaki.

This younger generation is a voice for the future and bring an optimism and belief that we can ‘get things right’.

Rats are the obvious problem, however the real problem is we need more people valuing their environment like some of our kids are.

Following meeting with Lucy , Charlie and Finn I met with a Hastings Business Strata who are also busy doing good things and are typical of the people I’m meeting on a daily basis – it keeps me going! Interest from companies supporting PFUHB is such a great vehicle both for funding support but also in socialising the message.

Strangely, the message is not – “kill rats” – it’s more:

“Care for your environment (and here’s a simple way to begin) and show you care for your community”.

So there’s my why – I care for our environment and I care for our community – and rat’s you’ve gotta go.

If you want to join us get in touch. If you’re already behind us (with a trap) – please focus on three things:

  • Tell everyone (Be proud!)
  • Set your trap and check it regularly (don’t give up)
  • Upload your data to trap nz (Contact us if you have issues, we can load details for you to get started)

Also note shortly I will be generating a page with a list of local coordinators so people can go the nearest one – we have about 10 now and need more, but we may as well connect where we can.

Havelock North ready for Lift Off

We’re all set for the launch of PFUHB in Havelock North –

The Domain/ Village Green, Saturday 9th November, 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.

All Hawke’s Bay Urban residents are welcome to come along, pick up a free tunnel and trap and have a chat about the program.

Michelle and Paul Hicks along with Robert Mellor and Carl Vose and others in Havelock north have been working hard to have over 800 tunnels and traps available. The weather looks awesome too.

The thing I’m loving as much as anything with this program is the great people I’m getting to meet – without fault they are generous and caring both for our wildlife and environment and each other; it’s a tremendous tonic considering some of the other rubbish that’s going on around the world at present.

The traps for this next launch will be a mix of choices as we learn while the program advances. The Landcare Victor Modified has proved difficult to set and I suspect is not the best at catching the critters either, so we have reverted to a standard Victor professional which allows us to afford more traps and tunnels.

We will also for the first time be offering an upgrade to an easy set “Monster” rat trap supplied by Designed to Kill. This provided more options in terms of lures and has a much more effective trigger plate, and importantly for many users is easy to set and release the dead rat – these will be cost to the user ($10) – but this allows us to get another trap on the ground for those who can’t afford the upgrade.

On other matters we have since starting had sightings of a Falcon (Karearea) on Napier Hill and Kaka in the Napier Botanics and at Havelock North at Paul and Michelle Hicks i saw an absolute glut of Tui’s – they can go through over 30 litres in a day at their feeders!!!

The photo here is by Beven Hanlon of the Karearea in a Totara – on Napier Hill!!! Brilliant.

The village will raise it!

Born 14 September 2019 – The village will now raise it!!

We had a fantastic launch on 14 September at the Napier Soundshell.

Well over 700 people through and everything gone by 3pm (2pm start time).

However, as totally awesome as that was, I knew this was just the beginning.

We need 5000 or more traps in the community to start making an impact, and although I’m confident we can deliver those traps/tunnels, the kaitiaki rests with the communities of Hawke’s Bay.

PFUHB is an enabling organisation.

We’re looking to take the pain points from people to get more closely involved in their community and connect with Biodiversity in general; trapping rats, though not the obvious starting point, has proven across the country to be a great way to achieve this.

We aim to take care of funding, materials, sponsorship, tunnel design, trap choice (s) and trapping strategy as well as providing a base network for socialisation and acceptance of a Predator Free status for Urban Hawke’s Bay. How cool is that!

We also aim to have local communities create their own flavour – because we’re all different and one size doesn’t fit all.

However, it takes a village – actually it will take 100’s of villages – to raise this ‘baby’ (and put an end to Rat babies)

Too good not to post – taken last weekend whilst walking Te Mata

As a rough summary of some of the great stuff that has happened since launch (not complete by any means):

Jervoistown has been the quickest community to assemble and engage at a very high level. I hope to have over 100 tunnels/traps on the ground within the next 3 weeks. This has been a tremendous initiative led by Julie Thomas and supported by ‘a village’ (I will do a separate post on Jervoistown in coming weeks)

Havelock North, through the initiative of Michelle Hicks and Paul Terry, is underway with planning their launch for early November. We aim to have at least 400 tunnels and traps to issue and with the enthusiasm and support of Carl Vose at Havelock High School and others they now have the means to achieve it.

Tim McVeagh from Pirimai put up his hand to help build tunnels and help co-ordinate that region – in addition to stepping into the breach the very next day to help me knock out another 250 kits.

Tim Race is ready to run a group in Onekawa and has already had each of his class assemble a tunnel.

Ros Stewart and Lyndsey Swann have thrown in their support to rally people in part of the Bluff Hill area.

Sharelle Creswell at Top 10 Holiday Park in Hastings is hoping to start a community around her area once through a busy schedule.

I have similar offers from Haumoana and Taradale and several other areas around the hill in Napier – and trust me if I haven’t caught up to you, or got back to you – I’m trying!

I have several schools already engaged – and for me these are the most exciting and rewarding of visits.

It’s a blast!

However, we can’t have too many volunteers and in particular we need people to act as a hub within their community and coordinate maybe 50 or 100 traps (most of it remotely – nudging emails, connecting with PFUHB for more materials etc.). It’s not hard work – in fact I pretty much guarantee you will find it very rewarding.

Please connect if you would like to get involved – in particular in the Hastings area.

What’s next?

We aim to have a launch in Havelock North – probably the 9th November – final details t.b.a.

A launch in Hastings at the end of November – final details t.b.a.

We are moving to a redesigned tunnel and more trap selections (base model free, other ones at a cost to user)

Tumu timber are moving into a specialised production phase for us and we expect to be able to hit 1500 tunnels out in the community by year end.

The database from the Napier launch has been punched in thanks to Sue Calcinai from Redcliffe homestead this week and I encourage everyone to now register join our group and load their trap and catches – it’s all we ask for making the tunnel and trap free.

Generally where are we going?

Stage 1 Make traps available.

Stage 2 Engage communities across the bay to embrace and care for the use of those traps.

Stage 3 Educate people in their use and make trapping predators as common and accepted as mowing the lawn (probably make it more accepted and more fun).

Stage 4  Communities celebrate a new connectedness and shape their own biodiverse future, with new vigour and understanding

In some places we haven’t got to stage one in other places (Jervoistown) we’re at stage 4 already!

If we haven’t got to your community yet – we’re coming – or simply invite us in.

If you (by ‘you’ we mean a community of 20 or more people who want to get a programme underway) and can’t wait, then you’ll make our day – let us know and we’ll see what we can fast track things in your direction.

Thanks for all your support thus far – and remember if you have a trap – apart from baiting and monitoring it – the best thing you can do is encourage your neighbors and friends to get on board too.

Remember Rats are like sesame seeds in a colander – until we close all the holes they just run straight through.

Come on neighbor join the fun…

Who knew this could be so much fun!

PFUHB Volunteers needed

We have already distributed 500 tunnels and traps and both demand and support is outstanding, however…

For PFUHB to truly succeed – our flora and fauna to breathe a sigh of relief and celebrate by doing what birds and bees do, and our communities to thrive and celebrate a greater understanding of and engagement in local, regional and national biodiverse environments – we need a few more champions to put up their hands. There are 2 main roles people can play, both are voluntary and the reward is knowing you’re doing a great thing!

An example of how a community might ‘divide’

Local community coordinators (20-40 needed across Urban Hawke’s Bay) Approx 2-4 hours per week

Basically this would entail:

  • Providing a local point of contact to distribute and if necessary maintain traps
  • Provide feedback to PFUHB on improvements to, or issues with, the programme
  • Co-ordinate 1-2 local working bee’s or workshops per annum – trap maintenance, trapping advice, planting or other biodiversity connected activity.
  • Co-ordinate with anyone in your area who has offered to assemble traps
  • You would be assigned an area which is entirely negotiable but would include a minimum of 100 households (target volume of 50 traps)
  • Posting to your community through Facebook ( we will set up the open group for you to run)
  • Group Emails to encourage people to check traps, refresh lures etc.

PFUHB will provide or coordinate

  • All funding and sponsorship
  • All material and trap supply
  • All training pertaining to specific traps (Possums and ferrets) and eventually the use of baits.
  • Liaison with local authorities/agencies
  • Direction and governance of the overall programme.

These community roles will also present volunteers with an opportunity for a greater say in how the programme runs and evolves going forward, and create a sub-community of PFUHB community coordinators.

I personally think up to 100 traps (200 households) could be readily ‘managed’ by an individual in a few hours a week; and from my own experience I assure you this is a much more rewarding and engaging role than it sounds on paper. No-one, it seems cares much for rats!!!

Tunnel assemblers (about 30 individuals required) 1-2 hours per week.

The second role can either be independent of the first or some may like to do both.

What I’m looking for is a bunch of volunteers prepared to knock together 10-20 tunnels per week.

With the redesign I think 4-5 minutes per tunnel is a realistic estimate of the time required.

PFUHB would deliver all materials on a monthly basis and the traps could either be collected by your local coordinator (role above) or by PFUHB (when we deliver new materials) who would then distribute them.

This is a numbers game 30 people knocking out 10 tunnels per week (maximum 1 hours work) – means the programme can get 300 tunnels out per week and easily meet our goal of having over 5000 on the ground by this time next year.

If you’re interested and would like to talk further please contact me

Success with our first working bee

Less than 2 weeks to public launch – so it was time we put together the essential “give away”.

First layer of 6 (and a few more)

With a small but dedicated team – a neighbour, the father of 2 mates I employed over 30 years ago, Regional council Candidate Martin Williams, a good friend and retired lawyer, my oldest daughter and a whole bunch of Scouts and cubs from Mahora scouts group we managed to knock out 230 Trap tunnels.

Some of the Mahora Scouts – and my daughter Olive in the Hi-viz! – hard at work

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council generously made available their Rural Pest Control building (Big ups to Allan Beere and Campbell Leckie for their support) – and after a few mis-steps we had a system going which was knocking out 50 tunnels an hour over the final 3 hours.

The best part was every single person involved left with a smile on their face – and indicated they wanted to do more. I am so grateful for everyone who has been involved and it was a great omen for the launch – 2pm the Sound Shell Marine Parade, Napier.

As I said -everyone looking happy with their effort!

Please note – we will follow through with similar events in Hastings and Havelock North soon, but don’t let that stop you swinging by, getting a trap and tunnel on the 14th of September, and getting underway.

Thanks for the great mahi everyone.


A walk in the park

Today I met with the very knowledgeable and enthusiastic Tony Oliver (formerly Auckland Southern Regional Parks Manager) and we discussed predator control  and biodiversity in general.

Tony lives adjacent to Maggie’s Way – an area that astounded me with it’s potential – and I confess prior to this visit I didn’t even know about it.

A small section of Maggies Way – not the best photo’s but i wanted to show what a positive impact even a small ribbon of planting could have in enhancing the environment for both people and species – this is biodiversity folks!

The moderately sized ribbons of young trees (mainly, but not all natives) supported a healthy population of Tui, Bellbirds, Fantails, Kingfishers, though strangely missing were Pukeko.

Tony has been successfully trapping rats on his property/bush and as we walked evidence of rats and or mustelids was aplenty – another pointer that only doing control in isolated pockets is an uphill battle, but you gotta start somewhere, right!

Headless Tui – Yes, a Headless Tui

As mentioned previously many people are in denial about the predators that are around. This was only a short walk (20 minutes at most) and apart from being somewhat concerned about the appropriateness of some of the plantings the real shock was finding this headless Tui which I would estimate had been dead less than 48 hours.

This is our own back yard, and it’s happening every day, everywhere, and it’s why we need to get underway.

The Tui has probably lost its head while protecting its nest and eggs.

As a brief update I now have materials for building tunnels and over 500 traps waiting for homes. I’m expecting to co-ordinate a day to prepare and assemble tunnel materials – at this stage looking like September 1st, with the public launch to be held at the Soundshell on September 14th from 12pm onwards.

Please distribute this post as far and wide as you can and email me – – directly if you can assist with either cutting and assembling tunnels on September 1st or for distribution of traps and tunnels and general promotion of PFUHB on the 14th.

All go – Rat De(d)co here we come.

I’m really about 4 posts behind so you’ll need to bear with me if this jumps about a bit.

The news is all good. In fact it’s outstanding.


We currently have orders out for 950 traps – about 6% of which will be targeted at mustelids, another 6% at possums and the balance at rats.

We are in the process of confirming an order with Tumu Timbers for the materials for the tunnels which we will start to prepare through mid to late August (see later in terms of volunteers).


In the past week or so I have met with Napier City Council, DOC, HBRC, HB Biodiversity Foundation, Tumu Timbers, Cape Sanctuary and various Candidates for the forthcoming local body elections. Tomorrow I meet with Stuart Nash, MP for Napier.

All of these meetings have been incredibly supportive and encouraging and affirm that the time is right for significant change in the urban environments around Hawke’s Bay. This change fits perfectly within the picture for much of Urban New Zealand (see the hyperlinks below for a very recent story and an older one), and to be honest it is desperately needed.


As conversations develop on this topic I am constantly coming across myths that people establish for themselves.

Here is the number 1 myth:

“Oh I got rid of the rats, my cat “Biggles” is a great rat catcher we don’t have them anymore”

To which I respond – internally – “Bollocks!” and externally – “Well, I think you’ll find they are still about.”

I’m sure that a short way into this programme we will start reshaping people’s ideas on how many rats and other predators we have in our urban communities, but we all need to be aware that we have a lot of people in denial.

I ask anyone engaging with this programme to never give up – keep setting the traps, the rats will not go away – presently we can suppress them but we cannot eliminate them, and for everyone of us that knows rats are a problem, there is someone denying the same (and probably claiming the earth is flat too).

This recent article is well worth reading – both as encouragement and confirmation we are on the right path:

Backyard trapping – Stuff

Launch – September 14th, 12- 4pm

After an initial scare that 14th September is Hastings Blossom festival parade, we have decided to go ahead and actually work that to our advantage.

DOC have been tremendously supportive in incorporating this into Conservation week and helping me bring all the pieces together.

We have the Soundshell booked from late morning and will start issuing traps and information at midday, with an official ‘opening’ at 2 pm. All going well there could be a sausage or two as well.

This means families can attend the blossom festival and swing by the Soundshell on the way home – our own sort of “trap”.

We plan to start more actively publicising this is a few weeks’ time, but please in the meantime don’t hold back on spreading the word about this programme and the launch on September 14th.

We will have a large number of traps and tunnels to be issued and hope to have all the key connected players and agencies available to talk about both this programme and biodiversity in general.

This is getting serious – I need Help!

Lastly, I have had a number of people connect with me and indicate they are willing to take traps etc. which is awesome, I’m hoping i can get traps and tunnels to these people by the first week in September.

What I need to do now is start bringing together a core group of people who can play a slightly bigger role.

If you think this is you please contact me directly

Details are yet to be finalised but this extra support will be something like:

  • Help in cutting and assembling tunnels and traps for the launch – handymen/women – this is likely to take place on the last Sunday in August probably at Tumu site in Ahuriri.
  • Become part of a core team which will maintain/reset the DOC200 mustelid traps and the Possum traps.
  • Become part of a core team that will become certified in handling baits and assist on a weekly basis in rebaiting stations (probably a 5km walk for each person over varying terrain). This is not likely to be underway until late in the year.

Also I had approached two local web companies to help get this site up, but neither were interested, so if anyone knows of someone who could help I would appreciate it (just wanting to make it a bit slicker and promote sponsors supporters etc.) not a lot of time or effort required for someone who knows what they are doing.

Watch this space…

Also with the Help of the Hawke’s Bay Biodiversity Trust I have a submission in for $30,000 further funding which would make an enormous impact on the area we could cover.

I’m also hopeful that with a successful public launch we can get some key sponsors interested in supporting this cause. In the meantime if you or someone you know might be interested please get in touch.

That’s all for now, hopefully see you in September or before if you put your hand out for some extra activities!


..and lastly a link to another article outlining where all this began..

Where it all began – Kelvin Hastie

Image from

First Funds!

As quiet as this blog has been, progress on PFUHB continues.

Bringing as many of the community along as possible is a road I haven’t traveled before. It is proving both rewarding and challenging and I know there are many more challenges and rewards to come.

Significantly, I am yet to meet up with someone who doesn’t believe in the intent of this project.

Yes, some think it’s crazy ambitious, and some have difficulty in comprehending what’s involved and how it could work, but not a single person has pushed back against the outcome we seek.

One of the first things I did when getting this underway was apply through Predator Free Trust for Kiwibank funding. I felt I was being a bit cheeky, most of what I had mapped out was pretty sketchy, however I’m delighted to say I was successful on my first try and am truly grateful for this boost and the encouragement given by Lynne Hemsley at Predator Free Trust.

I have also had funding offered by HBRC which is fantastic, they are also sponsoring and accompanying me on a visit to Predator Free Wellington to learn what lessons we can from their considerable experience.

Presently the challenge is putting the funding to best use with selection of the most appropriate traps and ensuring we optimise their location a small part of that challenge.

In addition I have begun to work very closely with Biodiversity Hawke’s Bay thanks to the interest and support shown by Professor Charles Daugherty and Sam Jackman. We are just working through how best to fit this program under that broader umbrella

I am expecting to publicly launch this programme in Conservation week, 14th-22 September. Promotion of this event will be done through a media campaign and internal newsletter promotion from within the key organisations and schools that are already aligning themselves with this project, and through this website and subscribers.

Lastly, even at this early stage, I have to say this is one of the most rewarding things I have ever been involved with.

It has such a positive aspiration, feeds a bigger picture, and seems to bring out the best in the people I am engaging with. I feel extremely privileged to have picked up this ball and have the opportunity to create some enduring and positive outcomes that mean we can all live more lightly on this planet – and bring our native flora and fauna with us.

The Little Engine that could

I returned to Hawkes’s Bay in 2017 after 13 years away. I was hugely optimistic about what was happening in the conservation space with progress at the Cape Sanctuary, Boundary Stream and now Mahia, alongside stories out of Urban Wellington, I felt for sure the broader community would be mobilised throughout Hawke’s Bay to support the Predator Free 2050 goal.

Sadly I found that was not the case and I have wondered why since that time. In the end I decided there was no single answer and the best I could do was to put my own foot forward and help drive some initiatives I felt would be complimentary to the advancement of a more involved, more proactive, and more conservation minded, Hawke’s Bay community.

My effort falls well behind in time, effort and financial resources of visionaries like Julian Robertson and Andy Lowe, however there is nothing to stop us as a community having just as great an impact, and a complimentary one at that, on the diversity and robustness of the wildlife in and around Hawke’s Bay – starting of course here on Napier hill.

There are many, many truly good people in Hawke’s Bay working hard to conserve space and species (both Flora and fauna), and many others I am sure wanting to but not sure how best to contribute. I am proud to be a QEII trust covenantor, establishing a remnant site at Bay View from 1996-2004 with my previous wife, but understand many don’t have the opportunity to make such contributions.

I am hopeful that groups such as PFUHB can create an opportunity for almost anyone to contribute and lead a groundswell of communities committed to bettering their environment;  for all native flora and fauna, for themselves and for the future citizens of Hawke’s Bay.

Richard Croad
May 2019