6 Jun 2019

Rogue rabbits raid Roxburgh Golf Club

6:08 am on 6 June 2019

Thousands of rogue rabbits are driving golfers hopping mad in a small, central Otago town.

Club member Ralph Nichol

Club member Ralph Nichol Photo: Otago Daily Times

Members of the Roxburgh Golf Club say they're losing a battle against the bunnies, despite repeated poison drops, night shootings, and the release of a rabbit control virus last year.

Club president Nigel Arnesan said the problem has been steadily increasing for about 20 years, but has reached "a point beyond a joke".

Local golfers and dog walkers are falling victim to rabbit holes - losing golf balls and rolling their ankles - while visiting golfers are remarking, embarassingly, on the vast quantities of poo.

"People come and play on the course, other golfers, and they think we run sheep on the place with that much rabbit poo on it.... it's that bad," he said.

The 18 hole golf course is on a reserve, but it's the golf club's responsibility to control pests - and every year there are attempts to thwart the rabbits with poison drops and night shootings.

Last year the Otago Regional Council released a rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus to tackle the problem across the region, but Roxburgh Women's Golf Club captain Heather Hiscock said the results were "disappointing."

She said it wasn't enough to prevent a population boom on the golf course, or to stem the rising cost of rabbit control.

"We're a small club and we do we do struggle for funding. We already had two quite major flooding issues in the last two years which cost us a lot of money," she said.

"Then you've got this rabbit problem, which is just another one of those things that is costly. It's not going to be an easy fix.... rabbits in central Otago are never an easy thing to get rid of."

Mr Arnesan is now looking into installing a large fence to defend the green from the encroaching rabbit residents, which he said come up from the banks of the neighbouring Clutha River.

But initial estimates put the cost of materials alone at $11,000 and it may be weeks until it can be built.

"We've got to have all the plans in place and then apply for grants and that could take a month, two months. We have got people at the council at the moment doing the plans and everything to try to get it through," he said.

"It's just bureaucracy really in that you've got to go through so many channels, but the council are helping us the best they can at the moment."

Otago Regional Council field manager, Trevor Crossan, is dubious if the planned fence, on one side of the course, would be enough.

"To be successful they'd have to fence the whole area, I would imagine. They would certainly need quite a bit of fence to keep the rabbits off the whole course."

But he said the council are discussing options with the Roxburgh Golf Club.

And Roxburgh Women's golf club secretary Rosemary Macnicol, who said she has been "amazed" at the extent of the rabbit damage, is hoping that may yeild some extra funding towards a solution.

"From my personal point of view, I think that we're looking after a important reserve that is so close to the town, for the council," she said.