Dr Stephen Goldson
Urgent action is needed to develop new approaches and
improve tools to protect New Zealand's environment and economy
from pests as some older approaches to pest management become
''obsolete'', a new Royal Society of New Zealand report says.
''Pests have and are costing the country billions of dollars,
both in terms of revenue lost and in control costs.
"There are also very substantial environmental costs
associated with loss of native biodiversity and New Zealand's
clean, green reputation,'' Challenges for Pest Management in
New Zealand co-author Dr Stephen Goldson said.
''Doing nothing is not an option.''
The total direct cost of vertebrate pests such as rats,
possums and stoats to the primary sector was estimated to be
about $1 billion per year while pastoral weeds were estimated
to cost the country $1.2 billion per year.
Losses to aquaculture from a single species was about $15
million, the report said.
Ongoing targeted investment was needed in improved tools and
technologies, such as fertility suppression and biological
control, to counter increasing pest resistance and the loss
of older, now less acceptable pest management tools.
More species-focused biological research was needed so that
new approaches could be developed and appropriately targeted,
''It will be necessary to engage early with the public over
novel pest control tactics or risk losing the battle for
control of pests.''
Research into monitoring and surveillance technologies was
also critical, because early detection of pests was essential
to successful eradication, Dr Goldson said.
New Zealand also lacked specialists with taxonomic and
Report contributor and Landcare Research invasive pests
portfolio leader Dr Andrea Byrom said the aim of the report
was to raise public awareness of the seriousness of pest
The Department of Conservation's Battle for our Birds was an
example of how critical pest management was to protect
threatened native birds.
''It is a balance between being able to deliver key outcomes
now such as tools versus investment for the future.''
There was a need for novel techniques and for people to
''think outside the square'' when coming up with future pest
management strategies, she said.
There were challenges with some tools and techniques, such as
the aerial spread of 1080, being controversial.
''There is a lot of debate but the scientific evidence is
very clear. There is not the impact on non-target species
that people worry about, especially birds.''
While more investment and urgent action was called for, New
Zealand's research agencies were working on many initiatives,
some high-tech, some low-tech, to improve pest management
options, she said.
From toxins highly specific to certain pests to breeding
infertility into male mice or modifying rat traps to provide
low cost options for communities, there was a ''lot of good
stuff going on''.
Citizens could play a huge part in pest management, as Otago
Peninsula's possum eradication programme showed, Dr Byrom
They could help identify new pests or the reintroduction of
The panel was chaired by Dr Matt McGlone and also included Dr
Graeme Bourdot, Prof Mick Clout, Dr Wendy Nelson, Dr Alison
Popay, Dr Max Suckling and Dr Matt Templeton.
Pest management challenges
- New Zealand remains under intense pressure from
- Ongoing targeted investment is needed.
- Urgent need to develop new approaches and tools.
- More emphasis needed on surveillance and pest
- Many pest management tools can no longer be used.
- More understanding of pests' life cycle and population
- Citizen science should play stronger role.
- Improvements to public engagement needed with new tools.