Meet the eradication team…Keith Hawkins, Assistant Project Manager

Keith in Antarctica

Keith in Antarctica

My career in conservation commenced in 1972 with the NZ Wildlife Service working around NZ and its offshore islands and its disestablishment in 1987, moving to the Department of Conservation.

Through out this time I have stayed in roles that have been primarily ‘out there doing’ it in the field and covering the full scope of conservation work over much of NZ and its offshore Islands.  I have been fortunate to have worked in many unique places and with a wide variety of threatened species (black robin, kakapo, takahe, blue duck, brown teal, kokako, plants and lizards…)

Pest control and eradication has been a common component of this work. The first pest control project I was involved in was removing large wilding pines on Mayor Island in 1972 with expired gelignite (unsuccessfully). I can comfortably say that since then I have participated or lead many successful aerial baiting and ground based toxin/trapping operations since.

Since 1994 I have been located at Whangarei where I directed a field team till 2012, working primarily on bio diversity projects involved with threatened species (e.g Fairy Tern and Brown teal), habitats, compliance, bio security and restoration work. A large portion of this work was on 14 offshore island Nature Reserves (Poor Knights, Bream and Hen and Chicken Islands).

Great Mercury Island cat and rodent operation June 2014

Great Mercury Island cat and rodent operation, June 2014

Baiting Taranga Island -21km offshore in background. May 2011

Baiting Taranga Island – 21km offshore in background, May 2011

I led successful aerial rodent eradications on Lady Alice Island, Whatapuke Island, Coppermine and Taranga Island (2011) and in 2012-13 was the Assistant Project/Operations Manager on Great Mercury Island rodent and cat eradication. Added to the mix have been successful follow up eradications following ship rat incursions on Lady Alice and Whatapuke Islands (2008), together with responses to alleged island pest incursions.

The coastal component of the work with offshore islands, the Poor Knights and Whangarei Harbour Marine Reserves, marine mammal stranding and associated compliance work has seen inflatable and rigid boat operation along the coastline or up to 21 kms offshore, a routine activity.

In 2014 I worked for a year as part of DOC’s Northern Region’s bio-diversity project planning team in a role that included reporting on regional pesticide operations and nationally on all aerial 1080 operations. This saw me decide it was time for a bigger challenge and a desire to get back ‘out there doing it’.

The Antipodes Eradication project was presenting in an XXXXXXL size. The biggest size!

I started in October 2015 as Assistant Project Manager for the Antipodes Mouse Eradication. My role is to support Stephen Horn (Project Manager) with the vast array of planning issues and documents that need to be completed and then implementing the actions.  I will voyage down to the Antipodes on the cargo vessel with the pilots, helicopters and equipment and once everything is on the island, my key task will be getting bait to the helicopter buckets when sowing the island.

The complexity of the project sees unexpected issues consistently thrown up that have to be successfully resolved before it’s possible to move forward to the next step. But hey, if that wasn’t the case, it wouldn’t be a real challenge.

Keith biking up the Pouter River

Keith enjoying a biking moment up Poulter River

My outside work interests have seen involvement in conservation work in the UK, Australia and Pakistan. I am an active diver, angler and windsurfer, many weekends sees me either under, on and even above the water. On land its the mountain bike, boots, pack and rifle, come spring and autumn there’s a good chance I’ll be back country somewhere.