Let’s spare Canada geese
I oppose Forest and Bird’s plan to kill the geese of Lanes Flat.
Lanes Flat is an open field on the Whitby side of the Pauatahanui roundabout, and is owned by NZ Transport Agency for the Transmission Gully project.
Over the past two years, Lanes Flat has become a refuge for a small group of Canada geese that were banished from the Pauatahanui Reserve by Forest and Bird.
It is not part of the reserve and is not an area where Forest and Bird has any legal mandate to operate.
When work on Transmission Gully begins next year, Lanes Flat will become one big construction site and the geese will have to fly to a safer place anyway.
Forest and Bird approached NZ Transport Agency earlier this year and asked for permission to kill the geese. This was done without public discussion and using what I feel was misleading information.
Until recently, Canada geese have been legally protected in New Zealand.
By the 1930s, they had died out in the North Island. They returned in the 1970s and became a protected game bird (the same status as the pukeko today), subject to hunting permits during open season.
Canada geese are grazers and have a clear preference for tender mowed grass. That quickly attracted the wrath of farmers, who claimed the geese were competing with livestock for pasture.
In 2011, the Minister of Conservation supported the farmers’ position and moved Canada geese to the ‘‘unprotected’’ category (Schedule 5 of the Wildlife Act).
That status meant the geese were the property of the landowner on whose land they live.
Many farmers were quick to exercise their legal right and several mass killings of Canada geese have been reported in farmlands since 2011.
The three pairs of geese at the reserve and 70 or so geese at Lanes Flat are a far cry from the tens of thousands in the South Island or at Lake Wairarapa.
Nevertheless, a Forest and Bird report states the organisation has been shooting geese at the Pauatahanui Reserve and shaking their eggs, to discourage the rest from settling at the reserve.
Most geese have left the reserve and moved to Lanes Flat, but Forest and Bird still wants to kill the geese at their place of refuge, which suggests that despite using euphemisms such as ‘‘removal’’, ‘‘control’’ and ‘‘management’’, what it really wants is to eradicate the group.
Forest and Bird plans to kill the geese in January, when they will be flightless during the moulting season and attending to their goslings.
The geese will defend their young, and without the ability to fly they will have to fight for their lives, which is likely to result in a particularly cruel outcome.
The arguments Forest and Bird raises raise to justify the killing are unsustainable.
First, although unprotected, Canada geese have never been declared a pest by our regional council.
The council did not even support the farmers’ campaign to change the geese’s status to ‘‘unprotected’’, but sought a more moderate solution.
Second, blaming the geese for fouling the harbour is a cynical attempt to ignore the 2012 Action Plan’s finding that the main sources of faecal inputs to Porirua Harbour were sewerage and stormwater infrastructure.
Third, the accusations about the geese’s behaviour are not supported by scientific evidence. They are not rats, possums or stoats.
Unlike the many ducks that boisterously fight in territorial feuds, the geese keep to themselves and react only to invaders (humans or animals) who threaten the safety of their goslings or eggs.
And fourth, most of the time the geese feed on grass at Lanes Flat and not on the fringe of the tidal area.
Even when they do, what is wrong with that? Tidal plants can be replanted or replaced. Lives and wildlife cannot.
Even if any of Forest and Bird’s arguments held water, the ease with which it resorts to killing animals is disconcerting, especially when considering it is an organisation entrusted with looking after our birds.
The disregard for life and the preference for death over non- violent alternatives (scaring techniques, replanting) puts this organisation of well-meaning individuals on the wrong side of the wildlife fence.
To me and my friends who live in the area, the geese are an integral part of the inlet and contribute to its biodiversity.