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Farmers seek help in pest battle

Stoat caught on camera at Mt Holdsworth. PHOTO/FILE

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Wairarapa farmers say the number of environmental pests has increased and they want the regional council to help get the numbers under control.

Farmers pay Greater Wellington Regional Council a flat rate of 80 cents per hectare for pest control.

In return, the council is involved with pest management of more than 813,005 hectares of Wairarapa land, including 18 Key Native Ecosystem [KNE] sites and 23 wetlands.

The regional council also worked with landowners.

But Barbie Barton, chairwoman of the Farmer’s Reference Group that operates alongside the regional council, said not all areas were properly covered by pest control services.

“Many farmers say they are not getting what they pay for in their rates.

“The model at the moment doesn’t seem to be working. We are never going to get complete eradication, but pests can be controlled.”

Barton’s land borders the Tararua Forest Park and is susceptible to invasions.

“The possum numbers have increased exponentially. I have seen them on the road behind Gladstone and Hinakura, and it has been years since I last saw them there.”

Barton said since tuberculosis in cattle had been brought under control, there had not been the same need for management of possum numbers.

“There are a lot of signs of rat activity. Stoat numbers are going up because we are having milder winters and they prey on baby rabbits. As long as they have a good food source numbers will go up.”

She said there had been plenty of rabbits in autumn, but hares were more apparent now.

“The pig and deer numbers are going up and up,” she said, acknowledging management of these species was DOC’s responsibility”.

Stu McKenzie, who owns a farm northeast of Masterton, said possums in his area were controlled but he had other problems.

“Feral cats are our biggest pest. They carry toxoplasmosis, which is spread to the sheep.”

McKenzie trapped both cats and rats and said he caught about one large rat each week.

Stoats had been spotted on his farm, but he had never caught one.

Predator control trap. PHOTO/STOCK.ADOBE.COM

He said the pest problem was worse in South Wairarapa and the Remutaka area.

regional council general manager of catchment Wayne O’Donnell, said pest management was an important core function.

“We play a role in controlling pests across the region to protect public health and reduce the impacts pests have on our region’s biodiversity, cultural and economic values.”

“The KNE programme ensures we have a full range of naturally occurring habitats that are healthy, functioning and support diverse native plants and animals. These sites are specifically chosen because of their high biodiversity values in different ecosystem types and are identified using current scientific knowledge and spatial data.”

Outside of KNE sites, pest plants and animals are monitored and controlled based on their category under the regional council Pest Management Plan.

He said the regional council provided support to communities, volunteers and landowners which included education and advice so they could do their own pest management.

The regional council also had a referral and cost recovery programme for some pest control. People with questions can email [email protected] or [email protected]

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