Friday, April 12, 2024

Mass rabbit hunt cancelled for third time running

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With heightened fire risk this season, organisers decided to cancel the rabbit hunt again, leaving a cloud of uncertainty over future events.
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The future of Central Otago’s Great Easter Bunny Hunt is uncertain after the event was cancelled for the third consecutive season. 

Organised by the Alexandra District Lions Club, the annual event, which was last held in 2021, had been around since the early 1990s. 

According to reports, finding suitable properties is becoming more challenging for the organisers with an increased focus on health and safety. A major contributing factor to this year’s cancellation is safety concerns over the heightened fire risk due to the ongoing dry spell in the region.

Last week the decision was made to extend the medium-scale adverse event classification in place for the Marlborough, Nelson, and Tasman districts to cover Canterbury and Otago too.
Teams generally hunt individually on foot during the day, and from vehicles in groups at night when the rabbits are more plentiful. 

Club secretary Donald Lamont said that “the new [health and safety] laws are making it almost an unacceptable risk, regardless of what waivers are signed”.

One club member told the New Zealand Herald it “was disappointing the event was unable to go ahead as the previous hunts had raised a significant amount for the club”.

The event is also key in helping with the pest problem in the region, where rabbits are a non-native, invasive, serious problem with no natural predators. Landowners have a legal obligation to control them. 

More than 200 hunters from throughout the South Island have participated in past events, with a kill of just under 12,000 in the 2021 hunt.

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