New Zealand government planning to have country 'free of rats, stoats and possums' by 2050

Plan to protect native species is described as the "most ambitious conservation project attempted anywhere in the world"

plans, new zealand, government, conservation, project, rats, stoats, predators

File photo. Image: Yui Mok / PA Wire/Press Association Images

The government of New Zealand has announced plans to make the country 'predator free' by 2050.

Authorities are aiming to have "every single part of New Zealand" completely free of rats, stoats and possums within 34 years.

Introduced predators are claimed to be the 'greatest threat' to the country's native wildlife, having overtaken previous threats such as deforestation and poaching.

Prime Minister John Key described the new plan as "the most ambitious conservation project attempted anywhere in the world".

In a statement, he said: “Rats, possums and stoats kill 25 million of our native birds every year, and prey on other native species such as lizards and, along with the rest of our environment, we must do more to protect them.

“We know the goal we have announced today is ambitious but we are ambitious for New Zealand. And we know we can do it because we have shown time and again what can be achieved when New Zealanders come together with the ambition, willpower and wherewithal to make things happen.”

He also suggested the total economic cost of the 'pests' is around $3.3bn (€2.1bn) a year.

The New Zealand government says it is going to lead the new initiative with a $28m (€18m) investment in a new joint venture company. The private sector will also be involved in the three decade long effort.