Is K5 working, farmers ask

Graeme Bell
Graeme Bell
Farmers are urging the Otago Regional Council to provide more evidence its K5 rabbit virus is working.

This week it was confirmed the RHDV2 rabbit virus had entered Otago, which could give the animals immunity to the council-released RHDV1 K5 virus.

This has bought renewed pressure on the council to keep farmers updated on the effectiveness of its virus.

Cr Graeme Bell has urged for council to keep farmers more updated on its success.

Federated Farmers high country Central Otago chairman Andrew Paterson echoed the sentiment, saying there "definitely" needed to be more information from council.

"A lot have a concern about whether it is working. No-one is 100% sure."

It would nice to know which virus was killing the rabbits, but he acknowledged that could take extra resources.

Central Otago-based rabbit control operator Stephen Dickson said the virus might have killed some adult rabbits, but it was difficult to tell.

"We just don't know how many it's killed. It's killed a few, but we don't know which virus has killed them."

There were still plenty of rabbits around, he said.

"People are in for a real fright up here once grass falls off and dies down."

When asked for updated information, a council spokeswoman referred to a response by environmental monitoring and operations director Scott MacLean in September.

It said the virus had a success rate as was expected by the council.

"Pre and post-virus numbers varied from 0-80% across Otago."

At a council committee meeting last week, a report on rabbit night counts in Central Otago was criticised for lack of detail.

It said rabbit levels were low in areas where there was rabbit control, at around 0.1 to two rabbits per kilometre. In Luggate, where there was no rabbit control, numbers increased from 21 to 28 per kilometre from last year.

Cr Michael Laws criticised the report for having no reference to counts from previous years.

"This doesn't really tell us anything, does it. It says we've got more rabbits in one area than another.

"This was the only way we had of knowing whether the virus was successful."

Cr Bell said there were a lot of questions in the community about the success of the K5 virus.

"We need to get that better identified, how well that's doing. I think we need to be able to get that information so we can let our constituents know."

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