Councils, Crown playing their part in rabbit control

Councils and Crown agencies are starting to play a bigger role in dealing with Otago’s rabbit problem, the Otago Regional Council says.

Council environmental implementation manager Andrea Howard said local councils, the Department of Conservation (Doc), and Land Information New Zealand (Linz) were increasingly aware of the role managing public land had in keeping rabbit numbers down.

When rabbits were out of hand on public land the public agencies were told about it.

‘‘Are we telling them they are not doing their job? Yes,’’ she said.

Cr Michael Laws said this week he regularly saw 50 to 60 rabbits in the middle of the afternoon over 1ha of land, along a stretch of the Clutha riverbank at Queensberry, which he suspected was publicly-owned land.

‘‘We’ve got this great emphasis upon trying to get individual landowners trying to do their job and own up to their responsibility, but continually it is public agencies that are letting us down in Central Otago,’’ Cr Laws said.

Ms Howard said the council was pursuing rabbit control in areas where it could start to see containment, she said.

In Gibbston, for example, extensive rabbit control work, including fencing, habitat modification, fumigation, and shooting operations would take place over spring and summer.

A widespread poisoning operation would follow in winter next year.

And another collaborative approach to rabbit control was planned for the Moeraki area and then Queensberry, Ms Howard said.

Preliminary discussions had begun with the Waitaki District Council for the Moeraki work.

It might not be as quick as everyone would like, but co-ordination with public agencies was occurring, she said.

Council staff had now had many conversations with Doc, Linz, and local councils.

There had been no pushback nor disagreement about the role they had to play.

‘‘I am quite satisfied that people now understand - that public agencies understand - and are committed to playing their role.’’

In a report to this week’s implementation committee she said rabbit inspections beat the target of at least 130 property inspections.

Over the year, a total of 331 inspections were carried out and 53% of inspections (174) were compliant while 47% (157) were non-compliant .

The non-compliant properties would be prioritised this year, she said.


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