Farmers, foresters and conservationists have called on whoever forms the next Government to commit to controlling the large mobs of browsing pests such as deer, goats, pigs, and wallabies now common across New Zealand.
Federated Farmers, the New Zealand Institute of Forestry and Forest & Bird wrote to all of the major political parties earlier this month asking for targeted funding to tackle wild browsing pest numbers.
“This is a serious problem for a lot of farmers,” Federated Farmers President Wayne Langford said. “These animals are consuming huge amounts of grass and undermining efforts to improve environmental outcomes.
“We’ve been getting regular reports of 30 or more wild deer roaming across farmland eating the pasture – and a deer can eat the same amount of grass in a day as two sheep. It’s the same issue with other pests too,” Langford said.
Data shows that these pest populations have been expanding in range across native habitats and primary production land.
In South Canterbury, a farmer recently eradicated more than 2300 wallabies in a single cull. Without adequate control measures on the neighbouring conservation land, similarly large culls will need to continue regularly.
A targeted injection of funding for the Department of Conservation (DOC) to increase their pest control efforts across the country is needed, Langford said. Government budgets are tight, but if pest numbers continue to expand the problem – and costs – will only get worse.
“There will always be an important role for recreational hunting in New Zealand, but the current increase in pest numbers shows that recreational hunting alone can’t adequately control these pests,” Langford said.
The forest sector is spending millions on wild browsing animal control, with reports of 1400 goats shot over 400 hectares in just two months on the East Coast, New Zealand Institute of Forestry president James Treadwell said.
“Without adequate pest management, New Zealand is going to be unable to plant steeper sites and meet the Climate Change Commission forecast of 300,000 hectares of new native forest. This could result in failure to meet future international climate change commitments, and further increase the reliance on purchasing international carbon credits at great cost to every New Zealander,” Treadwell said.
Forest & Bird chief executive Nicola Toki said the risk is native forest collapse. DOC monitoring has shown the feral deer, goal and pigs have colonised a third more conservation land in just eight years.
“[They’re] wrecking native habitats. Even worse, because they eat palatable tree species before those plants have a chance to grow, empty forest understoreys are endangering future forests.
“We need these critical carbon sinks in the fight against climate change. We need them to prevent flooding and erosion. And we need them because, without forests, where are native birds supposed to go?”
A hunter herself, Toki said recreational hunting is one tool in the toolbox here “but will never be enough by itself. This is a problem that’s been decades in the making and we need Government to front up and tackle it now.”
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.