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Trappers: Katie Harries from DoC and Southern Lakes Sanctuary, left, with Daniel Soares, Amber Stewart, Phil Green, all from Queenstown Climbing Club, and Wendy Johnston, New Zealand Alpine Club Central Otago Section chair on the final tramp up Wye Creek to install traps

By LUCY WORMALD

A ‘‘likely candidate’’ for the highest trapping line in New Zealand has been installed at Wye Creek.

Queenstown Climbing Club (QCC), with support from Department of Conservation  (DoC) and local conservation groups, has extended an existing trapping line by 7km up to Wye Saddle, with two traps at 2100 metres.

QCC conservation officer Phil Green’s been involved with trapping at Wye Creek since 2013, when QCC first worked with DoC to install a trapping line through the forest.

‘‘At the time, there was literally no bird life in Wye Creek … [recently] we’ve seen a lot of local walkers giving anecdotal evidence saying how much the bird life has grown.’’

He says over the years QCC has ‘‘really taken ownership of the project’’, and an extension to trap the upper valley has always been at the back of his mind.

‘‘One of the problems is that we know there’s stoats higher up the valley and they, come winter-time when it gets colder, come back down to the forest and it’s like a re-invasion.’’

After cost and maintenance barriers saw the vision end up in ‘‘the too-hard basket’’, Green says an evolution in trapping technology meant the project became feasible late last year.

And then rumoured sightings of the rare rock wren — NZ’s endangered alpine bird — under Single Cone fuelled the project into action.

‘‘That got us pretty excited … there’s also kea up there and kea are endangered, and there’s skinks and geckos, so we thought, ‘let’s start planning to put a trap line in’.’’

QCC began constructing wooden traps with the help of Arrowtown Menzshed and by October last year they had enough traps to begin installation.

‘‘We started carrying them up the valley, which was pretty hard work because they  weighed 12 kilos each, the wooden ones.’’

The team of QCC volunteers completed eight missions up the valley, laying a total of 105 traps.

Green says the project’s a great example of people power — with humane trapping company Goodnature, Whakatipu Wildlife Trust, Southern Lakes Sanctuary and NZSki lending a hand to get the project finished around Christmas.

‘‘The geography of the Remarkables is quite different from anywhere else in NZ and so it’s worth protecting … just being out there, you realise how special it is.’’

lucy.wormald@scene.co.nz