Wānaka Sun       

Rabbits on the run

Posted at 6:00am Thursday 15 Oct, 2020 | By Pat Deavoll editor@thewanakasun.co.nz

Hidden Hills, Queensberry, Lowburn and Albert Town are about to see a blitz on rabbits, according to a paper on the regions rabbit problem put before the Otago Regional Council (ORC) yesterday.

Manager biosecurity and rural liaison Andrea Howard said its biosecurity activities were undergoing a ‘‘transformation''.

The biosecurity team was at present resourced to deliver only a ‘‘light touch'' response to implement the regional pest management plan, which affected the council's ability to meet community expectations, she said.

A fresh approach was now being made, and improvements included the recruitment of three additional fixed-term positions within the biosecurity team, two of which would focus exclusively on the pest programme, she said.

Councillors were also asked to decide on the future ownership and use of the council's rabbit control assets such as carrot cutters, mixers and bait feeders, and the building in which they were stored.

Feral rabbits were an intractable burden to many of Otago's communities, affecting environmental values including soil stability, land-use and conservation.

Parts of Otago had experienced reasonably significant changes through intensification of land use in recent times, meaning more landowners were responsible for rabbit management. Increased urbanisation had also resulted in more rabbits being seen.

This was set against a backdrop of increasingly diverse views amongst residents, and the wider community, regarding what methods of rabbit control were acceptable and what weren't.

A roll-out of further small-block projects was underway, with at least six community schemes being supported this financial year including Hidden Hills, Queensberry and Albert Town

These projects were ‘resource-hungry' and require time and effort. The extent to how much value ORC could add would be determined by resources and the landowner mindsets.

To date, ORC's role in facilitated small-block management initiatives had been to undertake property inspections, fund joint signage, organise and lead community meetings and provide administrative support between contractors and private landowners. This collaborative approach had also been used in a few other areas including Hawea and Cardrona.

Changing communities, land-use patterns and attitudes, along with variable success rates of rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) had therefore resulted in further complexities of an already difficult problem. 

Read edition 996 of the Wānaka Sun here.

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