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July 2014 Issue
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Filming the dream

Documentary maker Braydon Moloney’s film Pest Free? explores the possibility of ridding rats and stoats from New Zealand. Photo: Patrick Roberts

Documentary film maker Braydon Moloney is convinced New Zealand can become pest free. Matthew Pike asks how such a dream is possible

Australian-born Braydon Moloney is no stranger to invasive pests. One of the major issues on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean, where he spent many years, is how to eradicate the likes of the yellow crazy ant and the wolf snake.

And the 29-year-old was surprised to hear that pest prevention is such a key issue this side of the Tasman Sea. He decided, as part of his science communication course at the University of Otago, to make a film where he would meet people trying to beat the odds and defeat the rats and stoats, once and for all.

Much of the resulting 25-minute documentary, Pest Free?, encompasses stunning imagery from Fiordland, where Maloney joined DOC ranger Peter McMurtrie, who’s desperate to rid off-shore islands, such as Resolution and Secretary, of all predators and pests.

“He’s a man on a mission,” says Moloney. “He won’t rest until the last stoat is removed from Resolution Island. It’s entirely trap based. It was quite intriguing seeing how such an enormous island can be virtually cleared using old technology.

“There are a lot of technological changes happening, but the old technology seems to be holding its own, without any toxins.”

Moloney believes an even harder task than eradicating predators from New Zealand’s wilderness is eradicating them from urban areas. He visited Stewart Island to see how community disagreements can add to the difficulty, but still thinks overcoming these issues is plausible.

“I’ve come away from this thinking it is possible,” he says. “Not in the immediate future – you’d be a fool to think it can be done in the next 20 years. But it’s going to happen – there’s a lot of research being done.

“The most difficult part is convincing people it should be done. People have all sorts of reasons why they don’t want pest control around their dwellings – a pest free area needs everyone on board. If people disagree then it won’t happen.

“In Oban, there have been community meetings to discuss making Stewart Island predator free and how they would go about doing that – it’s a big challenge.

“One of the issues has been whether to take the challenge from ‘pest free’ to ‘predator free’. Many people don’t want the deer to be removed.”

The project has taken Moloney on a journey around the country, to the likes of Kapiti Island, Christchurch and Auckland, as well as the far south.

He feels being an outsider has helped him see the issue with a fresh pair of eyes and enthusiasm to explore the topic. And the locations have enabled him to get some fine footage.

“One of the best days I’ve had was in Fiordland forest,” he says. “We sent the camera down a flying fox which gave the impression of flying through the forest with beech seeds falling in front of the lens. It gave a new perspective of the beech mast issue.

“I also got a few shots from a helicopter, on a deer hunt, trying to rid Secretary Island of its last few deer.”

There are still interviews to complete and edits to make, but Moloney has already finished the trailer (search ‘Braydon Moloney’ on

Pest Free? will be shown in The Regent Theatre, Dunedin, on November 1 and Moloney also wants to screen it in Te Anau to give something back to the community which helped him create the film.