Friday, April 26, 2024

Call to report wallaby sightings

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Farmers and landowners need to be on board with authorities to control the spread of wallabies causing significant financial loss to farm production and biodiversity. Environment Canterbury (ECan) wallaby programme lead Brent Glentworth says one year in, the National Wallaby Management Programme (NWMP) is seeing good progress but without a collective approach, wallabies will spread over the South Island high country at high cost to farming, production and biodiversity.
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Farmers and landowners need to be on board with authorities to control the spread of wallabies causing significant financial loss to farm production and biodiversity.

Environment Canterbury (ECan) wallaby programme lead Brent Glentworth says one year in, the National Wallaby Management Programme (NWMP) is seeing good progress but without a collective approach, wallabies will spread over the South Island high country at high cost to farming, production and biodiversity.

Formed out of the 2020 Budget, following lobbying from the Canterbury, Otago, Waikato and Bay of Plenty regional councils, the NWMP allows for central government funding to be made available to deal with growing populations of the Bennett’s wallaby in the South Island and the dama wallaby in North Island.

Both populations have increased significantly over the past 10 years in geographic range and density, both passively and by human assistance, the latter being a breach of the Biosecurity Act.

The $27 million four-year NWMP has eradication as a high-level aim.

The programme is a collaborative partnership model involving the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), affected regional councils, Land Information NZ, Runanga, the Department of Conservation, Federated Farmers and landowners.

“We have made some huge inroads in Canterbury in the first year of the programme and landowners are the most important partner,” Glentworth said.

“Farmers need to be involved as we are relying on them to be on board to support a coordinated and strategic approach.”

Over the past decade, the population of Bennett’s wallaby has spread to take in 1.1 million hectares of new area.

Financial loss to farm production, damage and destruction of plantation seedlings is estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars.

These pests, first introduced to New Zealand in the 1870s, were last considered a major issue in the 1950s and after years of hard work, were brought under effective control by the South Canterbury Wallaby Board.

This board was disbanded in 1992, with farmers opting for the user-pays model of pest control over the collective rated system, which funded the board.

Glentworth says wallaby numbers were low and casual shooting was the only control method employed for many years.

“Since then, wallaby numbers have increased and become unwieldy this past decade,” he said.

“We have been missing coordination and strategy attributing to the lack of effective ongoing control over a wide enough area – we have just been chasing our tails.”

The priority under the NWMP is to contain the spread of wallabies and push them back towards the containment zone, with a view to eradicate the pest outside of containment.

Inspection of remote areas to ensure there are no areas of unknown populations of wallabies is the second priority, with work on the border and buffer of containment to reduce further spread from the buffer areas, rounding out the three key priorities.

Inside the containment where wallabies are “wall-to-wall”, toxins are primarily the method of control, followed by ground shooting.

Around the buffer zones, a range of control methods are being employed, including baiting, ground and helicopter-shooting and fencing, where appropriate.

“We are at a crucial time now to stop spread and push back into the containment zone and progressively lower the population in containment,” he said.

“We need to continue to make gains year-on-year, ensuring the wallaby population is not allowed to regrow.

“We need everyone in Canterbury to get behind this programme for the sake of farming and the wider environment.

“Wallabies are spreading at such a rate that if we let this once-in-a-lifetime funding opportunity slip through our collective hands, the wallaby problem may become uncontainable.”

Anyone who sees a wallaby is urged to report it either by visiting reportwallabies.nz or by calling 0800 324 636.

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