Rabbit numbers could get out of control in Otago if any
of the most effective tools used to curb their numbers is lost,
the Otago Regional Council has warned.
"If we lose 1080, we're shot, well and truly," Cr Duncan
Butcher said at a compliance committee meeting this week.
Council chief executive Graeme Martin asked the committee to
commit to "reinvigorate a leadership" on the protection and
development of new rabbit control tools.
Rabbit control was a "never ending, costly and difficult
battle" on much of Otago's land as it was inherently rabbit
prone, he said in a report to the committee.
"Over 120 years or more, introduced rabbits have been very
damaging in environmental and economic terms."
Regular monitoring of rabbit numbers throughout Otago in the
past 12 years had shown control was still needed as numbers
were not going down overall, he said.
He warned that if any tools used - 1080, pindone-type toxin
baits, diseases or hunting - "fell over" then the region
would be in "serious difficulty".
With 1080 under constant pubic attack mainly for its use as
Tb control, some councils were moving to make its use more
stringently controlled to the point of banning it, and at the
same time, use of anti-coagulant toxins - the only serious
alternative to 1080 - was also coming under attack, he said.
"If we lost that, in two years' time, it would be
irretrievable, rabbit numbers would be out of control, unless
we've got the tools."
There was new research beginning in Australia looking at
rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) genetic resistance, but
work being done in Europe was to ensure immunity or
resistance to the disease was increased, he said.
Chairman Stephen Cairns proposed Mr Martin, or someone he
nominated, go to Australia to investigate the research being
Cr Butcher said the council could not just be the policeman
through its new regional pest management strategy; it needed
to get proactive.
Someone needed to "get on a plane post haste" to see if there
was anything in the Australian research that could help
"We have to be on top of what is happening with RHD."
Cr Gretchen Robertson said while the council did need to
start some leadership, it was also at serious risk if it
pinned all its hopes on a "silver bullet" from Australia, as
it was putting off the inevitable discussion on issues such
as 1080 being phased out and immunity.
"We need some serious risk analysis, what would happen in the
Cr Michael Deaker said the council could not afford to "take
its foot off the throat" of rabbit numbers, so needed to look
at linking up with research facilities, like Invermay
Agricultural Centre in Mosgiel and the University of Otago,
to encourage accelerated research in the area.
"Not just about killing rabbits but stopping them
reproducing. Let's find a long-term really big solution."
Cr Gerry Eckhoff, a Roxburgh farmer, said there was a real
fear out there that 1080 could be "ushered out", but it was
imperative it be retained as last year's dry spring had
allowed vast numbers of young rabbits to survive.
The committee recommended actions be considered to invigorate
leadership on protection and development of rabbit control
tools and the chief executive should follow up on overseas
and local research.