Pest plan fails to impress Bay of Plenty councillors

5:23 am on 2 October 2020

Regional councillors were scathing when presented with a pest management plan for the Bay of Plenty this week.


The Manawahe Eco Trust says its investment in the Manawahe ecological corridor is being undermined by the spread of wallabies into the area. Photo: Bay of Plenty Regional Council / Supplied

Several Bay of Plenty Regional Council elected members expressed disappointment with the plan, saying it did not go far enough and council staff had failed to listen to them.

The Regional Pest Management Plan was presented to councillors at a meeting on Wednesday. It outlines how various pests, including wallabies, catfish, African feather grass and wilding pines, will be managed in the Bay.

Councillors had earlier heard from representatives of the Manawahe Eco and Kōkako trusts, who said wallabies were wreaking havoc in the areas they were trying to protect.

Manawahe Eco Trust development co-ordinator Peter Fergusson said their investment in the Manawahe ecological corridor was being undermined by the spread of wallabies into the area.

He said since installing cameras in the corridor, the trust had spotted three or four wallabies in view at any one time and a Matatā farmer had seen 28 wallabies in his paddock on a single occasion.

Fergusson said not only were the wallabies putting native flora and fauna at risk, this farmer had seen his hay output decrease markedly because of wallaby and deer browsing.

"We need support and funding and a dedicated effort in the corridor," he said.

This map of the Bay of Plenty shows the regional council’s wallaby progressive containment and eradication zones.

This map of the Bay of Plenty shows the regional council's wallaby progressive containment and eradication zones. Photo: Supplied / LDR

The pest management plan divides the Bay of Plenty into two areas - one where the regional council is aiming for wallaby eradication and the other where it is aiming for "progressive containment".

The Manawahe eco corridor is in the progressive containment zone.

Council deputy chairperson Jane Nees asked if it was possible to move the lines on the map to include the eco-corridor as clearly a lot of the community were concerned about the impact wallabies were having in the area.

She said she did not understand why wallabies could be eradicated from one area but not another, yet the same could not apply to other species, such as catfish.

"I'm just a bit disappointed," she said.

Staff told councillors the zones were based on where they felt they could realistically meet those eradication goals.

They said pest species such as wallabies and African feather grass could be ring fenced and pushed back with various methods such as traps and baits, however, the same could not be done with catfish.

The progressive containment zones were designed to get smaller over time and the trusts could provide input into the national wallaby policy, due to be released by the Ministry for Primary Industries following the election.

Nees said she just wanted the plan to be the best plan it could be.

Rotorua councillor Kevin Winters agreed with Nees and said the progressive containment zone was like "accepting defeat".

"I want to see that yellow zone a hell of a lot smaller in three years. That's our job; that's our core business," he said.

"We have significant Crown funding for this for the next four years and if, after that, we stop we'll be back to this; we'll be back to the future."

Winters said too often the council received funding for projects which were then discontinued, and the council was left "holding the baby".

He suggested placing another temporary colour to show where the council would like to have the progressive containment zone in following years.

This suggestion was not taken up.

Chairman Doug Leeder questioned staff as to why wallaby and wilding pine eradication was considered "seasonal work".

Staff said it was not seasonal, but eradication of wallaby was easier in winter when wallaby were slower and hungrier.

Leeder told staff they needed to advocate to Wellington and explain work around wallaby and wilding pine eradication could be undertaken all year.

Tauranga councillor Andrew von Dadelszen said he was very disappointed and had the impression staff had not been listening to what councillors wanted.

He said he was most concerned about the potential for marmorated stink bugs to infect the region and cause millions of dollars in losses.

Von Dadelszen said staff needed to put something in the plan that indicated they would meet with landowners such as KiwiRail and Waka Kotahi to ensure they cleared their land of pest plants such as woolly nightshade, which provided a home for stink bugs and gorse that negatively impacted water quality.

He said it was clear when he drove to Whakatāne that dairy farmers were doing that job, but the government agencies were not.

"You just don't get it. If we don't include it, that indicates to the community that we don't care," he said.

"There's this attitude in the council that we have to do everything, that we have to pay for everything, but we don't. Make the landowners do it."

Staff said it was in "the rules" that landowners had to destroy woolly nightshade.

"It might be in the rules but if we don't action that, it won't happen," von Dadelszen said.

"We must get the landowners to clean up their act otherwise we are putting at risk a multi-million-dollar industry."

He said he was so disappointed he would abstain from casting a vote to accept the plan.

He expressed the hope that the council would undertake good community consultation to ensure the region knew what its intentions and expectations were.

Councillors voted to accept the Regional Pest Management Plan.

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