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Wallaby tale proven to be false

Three recently reported wallaby sightings in Wairarapa have been disproved by Greater Wellington Regional Council [GWRC], more than a year after dama wallaby corpses were found near Kaitoke.

GWRC’s Environment Committee agenda said wallabies are exclusion species in the Regional Pest Management Plan, but a recent investigation of three possible wallaby sightings were all determined to be false reports.

The reported sightings had been on the Remutaka Hill Rd, Smith Creek Shelter in the Tararua Range, and one in Carterton, where no street was listed.

GWRC general manager of catchment management, Wayne O’Donnell, said most reported sightings of wallabies turned out to be hares, possums, small goats or young deer.

He said there was a number of possible reasons why a false report is made, which included the increased publicity of wallabies through Ministry of Primary Industries-led campaigns.

“Signage has prompted members of the public to be vigilant and report sightings, whether certain of its identity or not.”

O’Donnell said because wallabies were easily frightened when disturbed, identifying it as a wallaby at a glance was quite difficult.

Additionally, wallaby excrement was difficult to distinguish from that of hares, deer, and other marsupials.

In December 2021, the Times-Age reported that GWRC found dama wallaby corpses in the Pakuratahi Forest and near Kaitoke Regional Park.

Greater Wellington Regional Council [GWRC] then urged residents to keep an eye out for the hopping marsupial.

GWRC said it wanted people in
and around Featherston and Upper Hutt to be on the lookout for the pests.

GWRC biosecurity manager Davor Bejakovich encouraged anyone who thought they had spotted wallabies, or signs of their presence, to file a report.

Bejakovich said wallabies could cause significant adverse environmental effects, including preventing the regeneration of native bush and depleting forest understorey, with possible impacts on water quality.

“They can damage and deplete
tall tussock grassland vegetation to bare ground, increasing the risk
of soil erosion.”

Bejakovich said DNA and EDNA samples had been taken from the water and faeces found during searches in the areas.

“So far, we’ve not found further wallabies, but we’re hoping local landowners, residents and park users will keep the area under surveillance so that we can be sure wallabies haven’t settled in the area.

“Not everyone is aware that wallaby populations exist in the wild in New Zealand, so we’re distributing signs and other material throughout the area to build awareness and encourage people to report sightings.”

In 2019, Forest and Bird said wallabies could spread to cover a third of the country unless the Government stepped in to fund a beefed-up control programme.

To report a wallaby or its presence visit: reportwallabies.nz or call the pests and diseases line on
0800 80 99 66.

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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