Lo­cal pos­sum op­er­a­tions re­shaped


OPIN­ION: TBfree’s aerial pos­sum con­trol op­er­a­tions in high-coun­try na­tive forests near Taupo¯ have been re­shaped to give deer hunters ac­cess to a range of coun­try in all sea­sons, while con­firm­ing the ne­ces­sity of TB erad­i­ca­tion.

Talks between deer hunters and TBfree pro­gramme man­agers about aerial op­er­a­tions in the North Is­land demon­strated that OSPRI is able to ac­com­mo­date a wide range of views about its aerial pos­sum con­trol ac­tiv­i­ties.

The cen­tral North Is­land plateau and the moun­tain­ous for­est ter­rain sur­round­ing Lake Taupo¯ of­fer ideal habi­tat for pos­sums and deer, and has a his­tory of har­bour­ing TB in wildlife in some ar­eas.

It’s also home range for na­tion­ally im­por­tant herds of sika and red deer, prize game for New Zealand and deer­stalk­ers.

OSPRI’s fo­cus on knock­ing down pos­sum pop­u­la­tions is oc­ca­sion­ally at odds with deer­stalk­ers’ fo­cus on hunt­ing game and tro­phy an­i­mals. Some­times it’s about ter­rain and boundaries, more of­ten about tim­ing.

Through a ro­bust process of con­sul­ta­tion around aerial and other op­er­a­tions, in­for­ma­tion about pro­posed boundaries and tim­ing is pub­li­cised to en­able sub­mis­sions from in­ter­ested and af­fected hunters, recre­ational and com­mer­cial land users.

Be­cause of the rugged­ness of the ter­rain and the un­suit­abil­ity of ground-based op­er­a­tions, the aerial dis­tri­bu­tion of 1080 toxin is the most ap­pro­pri­ate and cost­ef­fec­tive means of achiev­ing the rapid knock­down of pos­sums re­quired to erad­i­cate TB.

Many landown­ers – in­clud­ing in­ter­na­tional farm­ers and for­est own­ers, con­ser­va­tion­ists and recre­ational groups – recog­nise the value of the TBfree pro­gramme and sup­port the pos­sum con­trol work needed to erad­i­cate this dis­ease.

Other land users, in­clud­ing the hunt­ing fra­ter­nity rep­re­sented by the New Zealand Deer­stalk­ers As­so­ci­a­tion and the spe­cial­ist Sika Foun­da­tion, sug­gested changes to the pro­posed tim­ing of the op­er­a­tion and in­clu­sion of deer re­pel­lent on 1080 ce­real baits.

The sub­mis­sions made it clear that planned ex­pan­sion of op­er­a­tions in this area would have ma­jor im­pacts on com­mer­cial and recre­ational hunt­ing.

Changes would al­low them ac­cess to tra­di­tional hunt­ing ter­rain dur­ing the most pop­u­lar times of the sea­son.

Af­ter care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion of the sub­mis­sions, and meet­ings with hunt­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions, OSPRI man­agers sug­gested a solution – an ar­range­ment that ac­knowl­edged the hunters’ views while en­abling the im­por­tant TBfree work to be com­pleted.

OPSRI de­cided to con­tinue its in­vest­ment in the use of deer­re­pel­lent treated 1080 bait across all sika deer habi­tat in highly val­ued hunt­ing ar­eas. Also, it un­der­took to use deer re­pel­lent bait across more than 130,000ha of other op­er­a­tions on pub­lic land in North and South Is­land high­coun­try deer habi­tat dur­ing up­com­ing op­er­a­tions.

Op­er­a­tions were re­designed to split the Kaipo op­er­a­tion into two. One half was de­ferred for con­trol this (2017) win­ter. The Kaweka East op­er­a­tion was de­ferred by a year to al­low for fur­ther con­sul­ta­tion, and re­con­fig­ured into three blocks to be treated across three years.

This gives hunters ac­cess to large un­treated ar­eas of front and back coun­try dur­ing each hunt­ing sea­son. Tim­ing of some op­er­a­tions was changed to avoid the roar sea­son and other pop­u­lar hunt­ing pe­ri­ods.


A red stag in early sea­son vel­vet.

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