We may not see eye-to-eye on every issue, but the fact Federated Farmers, Forest & Bird and the New Zealand Institute of Forestry have joined forces to highlight the growing problem posed by feral pests speaks to just how bad things have got.
Late last month the three organisations called on political parties to commit to controlling the large mobs of wild animals and browsing pests now common across most of New Zealand. The initiative gained a lot of media interest.
The letter to politicians said decades of underinvestment and inadequate wild animal control has resulted in exploding populations and a subsequent increase in the range of wild deer, pigs, wallabies and goats.
“These animals are having a heavy economic and environmental impact, while creating a significant biosecurity risk.”
Not only do they destroy on-farm native vegetation and hamper farm revegetation efforts, but they also threaten farm economic viability by consuming vast amounts of grass, lessening productivity.
Federated Farmers president Wayne Langford pointed out one deer eats the same amount as two adult sheep or a one-year-old heifer, and one wild goat is the equivalent of one sheep.
The organisation frequently receives reports of herds of 30 or more deer roaming through farms – that size of wild deer represents an additional 60 sheep that a farmer can no longer support.
The joint letter said the current suite of control efforts including farmer funded pest control, recreational hunting, and DOC or Regional Council-deployed hunters “are failing in many areas to adequately control populations”.
“Wild animals like deer, goats and pigs are carriers of diseases such as bovine tuberculosis (TB), so having them roam onto farms in large numbers creates a significant disease risk for farmers. Large populations of deer, goats and pigs also create a national risk as, if a major disease incursion were to occur and infect wild stock, control becomes exponentially harder.”
Former Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage was first out of the blocks with a response to the three organisations, stating the Green Party was well aware of the impacts and risks raised.
Noting substantial increases in funding for wallaby control work and a further $148 million for DOC in 2020 for pest eradication and control, Sage said after strong representations from the Greens an additional $30m over four years was made to DOC in Budget 2022 for goat control and deer management.
“The Greens have continued to question the department about how this fund has and is being spent. There has been effective control of goats in areas such as Banks Peninsula but less evidence of the funds being used to reduce deer numbers.”
Sage said DOC’s own monitoring shows a national shift in forest composition, with the number of ungulate-preferred tree species in decline with the tree species they avoid eating increase.
Given the large amount of money being invested already, Federated Farmers say that this isn’t necessarily about the dollars spent – it’s actually about dealing with the issue.
“Whether that means new money invested, the reallocation of old money, or trying new ways of doing things doesn’t matter to farmers – we just want wild animal numbers brought under control, so they stop wrecking our farms,” Langford concluded.
Federated Farmers, New Zealand’s leading independent rural advocacy organisation, has established a news and insights partnership with AgriHQ, the country’s leading rural publisher, to give the farmers of New Zealand a more informed, united and stronger voice. Feds news and commentary appears each week in its own section of the Farmers Weekly print edition and online.