As the Community Engagement Coordinator for Predator Free Masterton, Niki Jones will be coordinating trapping projects in urban Masterton

As the Community Engagement Coordinator for Predator Free Masterton, Niki Jones will be coordinating trapping projects in urban Masterton

It’s a new initiative for Masterton and a brand new role, yet the territory is familiar ground for Niki Jones, the newly-appointed Community Engagement Coordinator for Predator Free Masterton.

Niki’s love for our native biodiversity can be traced back to a childhood spent roaming in the backblocks of Upper Hutt and conservation has been at the heart of what he’s done since.

He’s been involved with the Food Resilience Network and a community food farm project in Christchurch, worked with the Native Forest Action group and the Western Australian Forest Alliance, and more recently, the Awatotara Project in Masterton.

Now he and his Wairarapa-born wife are living off-grid near Carterton, working on their own biodiversity project around Booth’s Creek and getting stuck into his new role.

“There’s huge potential to connect lots of different groups with this initiative,” says Niki. “Predator Free is one of those great stories right across the country, and now there’s an opportunity for us to be part of this ambitious collective national vision right here in our own backyards.”

“Our first job is to engage with people here who are already doing this really important work. That way we can look at what we already know about predators and the people involved in trapping them, and work out where the gaps might be,” he says. “If we can identify what some of the ‘dots’ are, then we can start supporting people to be part of New Zealand’s backyard trapping movement and join some of those dots to get a coordinated approach happening.”

The geographical boundaries are yet to be decided. They may be based around waterways or around neighbourhoods, but will be within the Masterton urban environment rather than in the surrounding rural areas. There are already predator-free groups operating in other Wairarapa towns, supported by local councils, the Predator Free Trust, and teams of volunteers. Niki’s role is administered under the Wairarapa Pukaha to Kawakawa alliance (WaiP2K)

To co-ordinate a plan, Niki will be organising a meeting of all interested parties for early October and he hopes to have that plan ready to launch by the end of that month.

He knows that there are already a lot of people who are keen on tracking and trapping in the community and wants them all to bring their experience and ideas to the plan. While a social media presence is still a while away, Niki would love to hear from anyone who is keen to be involved.

Niki can be contacted on his email

With thanks to the supporters of this project: Masterton District Council, Masterton Trustlands Trust and The Nikau Foundation

Ali Mackisack, storyteller for WaiP2K