Moeraki rabbit management

We are supporting a community response to rabbit management in the Moeraki area by bringing together affected landowners and occupiers to discuss the problem, and collectively work out solutions.

Working in a coordinated manner with your neighbours will help to more effectively reduce rabbit numbers and decrease their impact on the environment.

Rabbits are a priority pest in Otago, and they present complex challenges for pest management.  Under the rules in our Regional Pest Management Plan, all landowners/occupiers in Otago must control feral rabbit densities on the land they occupy if densities exceed our rule limits. 

Plan Rule 6.4.6.1 - An occupier within the Otago region shall control feral rabbit densities on the land they occupy to at or below Level 3 on the Modified McLean Scale (MMS).

We initiated the Moeraki community-led rabbit management programme in October 2021. Our Biosecurity staff inspected properties throughout the Moeraki area to determine which areas are most affected by rabbits, which properties are managing rabbits well, and which properties require a greater level of control.

These inspections were carried out by our Biosecurity staff, who are all ‘authorised persons’ under the Biosecurity Act 1993 and are warranted to enter your property for this purpose. The inspections were undertaken on crown and public land as well as private properties.

We held a community meeting in November 2021 to introduce the programme and outlined the current framework for rabbit management in Otago under the Regional Pest Management Plan. Key messages from our presentation were:

 

Proposed Moeraki rabbit management area

Proposed Moeraki rabbit management area

     

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  • ‘Sustained control’ is the region’s rabbit management target, not eradication;
  • The responsibility to manage feral rabbits lies with the landowner/occupier. ORC hasn’t collected rates to pay for rabbit control since the 1990s;
  • A strategic approach to rabbit control should begin with a Rabbit Management Plan;
  • It’s not just about how many rabbits are killed, rather how many are left behind;
  • Working together with your neighbours to develop and implement a management plan can result in far greater impact as well as potential cost savings;
  • Installing and maintaining a well-constructed fence will prolong the effects of control work undertaken.

   

Watch a pre-recorded video of the presentation below.

 

The inspections undertaken in the Moeraki area in October 2021 identified which properties had high rabbit densities and required a greater level of control to be compliant with the relevant rules in the Regional Pest Management Plan. Owners/occupiers of these properties were asked to submit a rabbit management plan detailing how they will effectively manage rabbit numbers on their properties.

In late November 2021, we held a workshop to assist these owners/occupiers to develop their management plans.  We have since received and reviewed many management plans and will continue to work with these landowners/occupiers to ensure that what they have proposed is effective. We are also facilitating coordination between nearby owners/occupiers where possible, and are working with Waitaki District Council, the Department of Conservation and KiwiRail to ensure that these organisations also have effective rabbit management plans in place. We are also working with Te Rūnanga o Moeraki to support effective rabbit management by Te Rūnanga.

We arranged a site visit in February with interested landowners where we visited key sites throughout the area with several rabbit management experts to explore possible rabbit management options and to identify opportunities for coordination between owners/occupiers.

Our work to date has been focused on properties greater than 5,000 m2 in size, but we are aware that rabbits on smaller properties in town are also contributing to the area’s problem. If rabbits are able to graze, hide or even just pass through these smaller properties then there are measures that the property owner/occupier could take to contribute to the wider collective rabbit management effort. These measures include:

  • Rabbit exclusion fencing
  • Removing any piles of wood, rubbish or vegetation that offer rabbits protection from the weather and predators
  • Pruning the bottom of shrubs and hedges so they don’t provide a suitable shelter for rabbits
  • Ensuring that any gaps under buildings and sheds are blocked to prevent rabbits from gaining access

Control methods on smaller properties and in urban settings can also include the use of Pindone rabbit pellets in bait stations, fumigation of burrows (using Magtoxin) as well as follow up shooting (in appropriate locations) by experienced contractors.  For more information on any of these methods please visit our website in the first instance - www.orc.govt.nz/rabbits - and email or call us if you have any further questions. Please note that any toxic agents (i.e. Pindone and Magtoxin) must only be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions to minimise the risk of harm to children, pets, stock and native wildlife.

Next steps

We will continue to offer guidance on effective rabbit management options to those owners/occupiers who need it most. We will also be following up closely with the owners/occupiers of properties who were asked to submit a management plan, where a review of the management plan has indicated that inadequate/ineffective control work will be undertaken. This may include follow-up compliance inspections later this winter if necessary.

We will also continue to support the coordination of rabbit management between adjoining properties, including agencies such as Waitaki District Council, Department of Conservation and KiwiRail.  If your property is adjacent to land owned by one of these agencies and you wish to explore coordination of your control efforts (including the potential for sharing fencing costs), please get in touch with us and we’ll connect you with the relevant agency. 

If you are interested in more information about rabbit contractors working in your area, please contact us at 0800 474 082 or at pests@orc.govt.nz and we can email you a current list.  More information about rabbits and available management techniques can be found here.

We are confident that we can, collectively, support better rabbit management in Moeraki with some short-term steps leading to a longer-term solution. Rabbit control needs to be ongoing to ensure a continued reduction in numbers.

Download the Rabbit Management Plan Template below

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