New Zealand announces plan to rid country of rats

If you are afraid of rats, New Zealand might be the place for you
If you are afraid of rats, New Zealand might be the place for you

With their ability to travel, multiply and spread disease, rats have long been one of mankind's greatest pests but now New Zealand says it's time to wipe them out. Every last one of them.

Prime Minister John Key on Monday announced an ambitious plan to completely rid the South Pacific nation of rats and other nuisance animals including possums and stoats by the year 2050.

The government hopes a rat-free countryside will give a boost to native birds, including the iconic kiwi.

Many native bird species are threatened with extinction because rats and other pests feast on their eggs.

Species introduced to New Zealand kill 25 million native birds a year, including the national bird Kiwi, of which 20 die per week, according to the government.

It says the estimated financial cost of the species is NZ$3.3bn (€2.1bn) a year.

Rob Fenwick, the chair of the Predator Free New Zealand trust, who are leading the programme, told The New Zealand Herald it would allow a military-level response to the problem for the first time.

"It's a real game-changer. We've been killing predators now for decades and in the past it's been quite an un-strategic approach to this campaign.

"This fund will drive a more strategic and comprehensive approach to a landscape-scale assault on predators that we haven't seen before."
Chris Liddell, director of the Next Foundation, who invests in large-scale pest control, added the goal of complete eradication was achievable if the whole country got behind it.

"It's a big vision and it's what we need," he said.

"Having the Government leading the way is really important."