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In an update for the council’s implementation committee meeting tomorrow, manager biosecurity and rural liaison Andrea Howard said its biosecurity activities were undergoing a ‘‘transformation’’.
The biosecurity team was at present resourced to deliver only a ‘‘light touch’’ response to implement the regional pest management plan, which affected the council’s ability to meet community expectations, she said.
A fresh approach was now being made, and improvements included the recruitment of three additional fixed-term positions within the biosecurity team, two of which would focus exclusively on the pest programme, Ms Howard said.
Feral rabbits were an ‘‘intractable burden’’ to many of Otago’s communities, but more landowners had become responsible for rabbit management due to the intensification of land use, she said.
Increased urbanisation had also resulted in greater visibility of rabbits in newly formed ‘‘periurban environs’’.
Planning had started for rabbit control operations at Hidden Hills (Wanaka), Lake Hayes, Albert Town, Gibbston Valley, Queensberry, Otago Peninsula and Moeraki to take place in 2021 and 2022, and to revisit previous areas such as Aramoana, Waianakarua, Cape Wanbrow, Taieri Mouth, Roxburgh, Millers Flat and Springvale in 2022 and 2023.
Councillors would also be asked to decide on the future ownership and use of the council’s rabbit control assets such as carrot cutters, mixers and bait feeders, and the building in which they were stored.
A total of 160 people completed an online survey earlier this year; 71% were in favour of the the building and assets being retained.