Otago regional councillors today approved funding of $273,000 for a dedicated search-and-destroy and surveillance programme to step up targeting the reduction of wallaby numbers in the region.
Wallabies are listed as an unwanted organism under the Biosecurity Act and are identified as a pest animal in Otago’s Regional Pest Management Plan.
These animals have the potential to cause significant adverse environmental effects and become a burden for future generations should feral populations establish in Otago.
Wallabies compete with stock for pasture and can damage crops and young trees. They can easily adapt to changing habitat and can thrive in any environment from forests through to open tussock country.
ORC chief executive Peter Bodeker said the number of confirmed sightings and kills of wallaby – both south of the Waitaki River and within Otago – are on the increase.
The Otago Pest Plan (2009) requires all wallaby to be destroyed by land occupiers and those that are killed or seen, to be reported to ORC.
Mr Bodeker said the wallaby population south of the Waitaki had grown at a faster rate than anticipated, resulting in increased pressure being put on the regional boundary with Canterbury, as the animals spread out to seek new territory.
As a result, ORC staff will work closely with Environment Canterbury to co-ordinate control programmes on the boundary.
The approved control programme is designed to prevent a breeding population from establishing in Otago. Councillors had to consider the funding request today because the new programme is not currently budgeted for in ORC’s Annual Plan, and will have to be funded from reserves.
Mr Bodeker said ORC would operate the programme collaboratively with community and relevant agencies, who would offer ‘in-kind’ support, including cost-sharing for helicopter hire for aerial surveillance, regular downloading of data captured on ORC-owned remote sensing cameras, and provision of manpower to support ground-based search operations.
ORC director environmental monitoring and operations Scott MacLean said landowners had been supportive of this approach to date and some had already offered assistance which would be taken up as required.
“We really appreciate this community support, because without it we would be unable to mount any kind of effective control programme,” Mr MacLean said.
Recent signs of wallabies emerging near Alexandra – and the shooting of a wallaby at Kyeburn – has ORC worried they may be being intentionally released. Wider sightings around Otago point to a mixture of natural migration and release.
ORC is currently working closely with Maniototo Pest Management Ltd to survey the extent of the problem, which will involve camera surveillance and education with farmers. Field days will be held in Weston, Naseby/Ranfurly, and Tarras within the next couple of months, and ORC staff will be on the ground to monitor areas where the wallabies have been seen.
“We need help from farmers and other residents south of the Waitaki River to be our eyes and ears on the ground,’’ Mr MacLean said.
“We will work closely with them with the goal of eradicating this pest. If any wallabies are spotted, we ask people to call ORC on 0800 474 082 and give us the location,” Mr MacLean said.
Under the Otago Pest Management Plan, any wallaby sightings need to be reported to ORC within two days, and the pests must be destroyed if it’s safe to do so. Anyone found deliberately releasing wallabies, which is in breach of the Biosecurity Act, can be imprisoned for up to five years, and/or fined up to $100,000.
For more information please contact
Ph 0800 474082 or 0274 998328
Director environmental monitoring and operations
Ph 0800 474 082 or 027 4119459