Predator-free New Zealand is critical to the dairy industry: Fonterra

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

A New Zealand dairy herd. Pic: iStock/pelooyen.
A New Zealand dairy herd. Pic: iStock/pelooyen.

Related tags New zealand

Fonterra has welcomed the New Zealand Government’s ambitions to make the country predator free by 2050, saying the ‘hugely significant goal’ is shared by the dairy industry.

It hopes that existing initiatives backed by the dairy industry – such as the Zero Invasive Predators research project – will help New Zealand reach its goal.

The predator-free initiative was announced by the New Zealand government this week, aiming to rid the country of non-native predators and protect native flora and fauna.

Going predator-free

In what the Prime Minister John Key calls ‘the most ambitious conservation project attempted anywhere in the world’, New Zealand wants to free the country of non-native predators by 2050.

New Zealand boasts a unique array of indigenous flora and fauna, but fears introduced predators are now the greatest threat to its native wildlife. Rats, possums and stoats kill 25m native birds every year, as well as threatening other species.  

Interim goals, 2025

  • 1m hectare increase in areas where predators are suppressed.
  • Demonstrate predator removal in areas of mainland NZ of 20,000 hectares.
  • Remove mammalian predators from offshore island nature reserves.
  • Develop science solutions that remove at least one small mammal predator from the mainland.

Key also says the introduced pests threaten the economy and primary sector (which includes pastoral and livestock farming), at an estimated cost of around $3.3bn (USD $2.3bn) a year.

Fonterra has welcomed the predator-free initiative, saying that a predator-free country is ‘critical’ to the dairy industry.

“This is a hugely significant goal, and one that the dairy industry shares,” ​said Carolyn Mortland, director of social responsibility, Fonterra.

“A predator-free New Zealand would have significant benefits for New Zealand’s environment as well as help with animal TB eradication.”

Dairy industry’s high disease prevention costs​ 

Possums and rats can carry diseases such as TB, creating a high on-going cost for farmers, as well as for dairy companies who have to invest in pest control to protect production facilities.

In 2015, New Zealand’s dairy industry committed $5m NZD over two years in the Zero Invasive Predators scheme (ZIP). ZIP was formed that year with a $10m injection from the philanthropic NEXT foundation and $5m from the government’s Department of Conservation.

Fonterra Cooperative, along with other dairy companies including Westland Milk Products, Open Country, Synlait and Tatua, are contributors to the program. They support ZIPs efforts to fight against stoats, rats and possums, which can destroy native flora and fauna, and carry bovine tuberculosis.

ZIP: What is the dairy industry doing?


ZIP’s vision is to completely remove rats, stoats and possums from large areas of the mainland, in order to allow for the long term, sustainable protection of native biodiversity.

An example of the initiative’s work is a predator enclosure at Lincoln University, opened last month. It is allowing trials of new technology to more rapidly take pest-control concepts through to real world solutions. 

Pictured: Possums are native to Australia but not New Zealand. They were introduced to New Zealand in 1837 and 'have become one of the greatest threats to the natural environment' [Department of Conservation, NZ]. Pic: iStock/AnjoKanFotografie.

“It’s our hope that ZIP will be a key player in helping New Zealand achieve the Government’s target, and deliver results for both our environment and economy,”​ added Mortland.

Mortland added the Government’s predator-free announcement encourages her that programs such as ZIP will get the ongoing support they need.

The ZIP investment is part of an overall $16m per annum investment in pest management from the dairy industry.

Related topics Manufacturers Fonterra Sustainability