Central Otago bunny hunt called off for third straight year

File photo
File photo
Central Otago’s bunnies can breathe a sigh of relief as the Great Easter Bunny Hunt has been called off for the third year in a row.

Organised by the Alexandra District Lions Club, the event was last held in 2021. For the past three seasons it has been cancelled for various reasons.

In a letter sent to participants enquiring about the event, club secretary Donald Lamont said the decision was made not to hold this year’s hunt due to the “overwhelming” risk of fire.

The future of the event was up in the air, as it was getting more difficult for the club to get runholders and farmers to agree to have unpaid personnel on their properties, he wrote.

“The new H&S [Health and Safety] laws are making it almost an unacceptable risk, regardless of what waivers are signed.”

More than 200 hunters from throughout the South Island have taken part in past events, with up to 12,000 rabbits being collected in the 2021 hunt.

Club member Barry McCall said the decision to cancel this year’s event ultimately came down to the fire hazard, but there were other factors at play including a growing reluctance from landowners to allow access to their properties due to concerns over health and safety.

“Many farms used to allow access, but now, with syndicates owning properties, they’re less inclined to take the risk,” McCall said.

“It seems to be a trend with wet springs, and then excessive grass growth over that Christmas period, then it dries off leading to such a fire risk in the high country.”

He said it was disappointing the event was unable to go ahead as the previous hunts had raised a significant amount for the club.

“It took a lot of organising and co-ordinating between the farmers and the hunting groups and a ballot system and we had prizes that were given out there. It was quite a unique opportunity to go hunting like this as a team.

“A lot of the teams became very sophisticated with organising specially built vehicles to shoot from, and they had a roster of the hunters so that there was always people out there adding to the tally.”

Efforts to explore alternative fundraising avenues have been made, with the Alexandra Lions Club focusing on ramping up catering services for other annual events to mitigate the impact of losing the Easter Bunny Hunt.