31 Mar 2009

Minister agrees more action needed on rabbit numbers

2:01 pm on 31 March 2009

The Biosecurity and Agriculture Minister has acknowledged that increased action will be needed to deal with rabbit numbers that are getting out of hand again in some parts of the South Island.

The minister, David Carter, was responding to a call by Federated Farmers for the Government to join landowners in funding pest control work in rabbit-plagued parts of the country.

Federated Farmers has proposed setting up a voluntary group in each area to form autonomous boards to manage the rabbit problem. Regional rabbit boards disappeared under local Government reforms in the late 1980s.

It is also proposing a formal partnership between landholders and central Government for a 50/50 split on pest control costs on properties identified as having excessive rabbit numbers.

Mr Carter says there will be no quick decisions as he will need to discuss the issue with other ministers, but agrees a co-ordinated approach is essential.

Doubts over Government input

Otago is one of the regions battling a resurgence of rabbit numbers in some areas as the effectiveness of the RHD virus wears off.

Otago regional council chief executive Graeme Martin says farmers are already working collectively on rabbit control, either voluntarily or in more formal groups, and some of those have been highly successful.

He has doubts about the idea of central Government and land-owners splitting the costs of rabbit control or creating a new type of rabbit board.

Mr Martin says that type of Government input starts diluting the responsibility of each landholder, including the Crown as a landholder. It must be recognised that rabbit control has to be carried out continually, he says.