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Published: 2001-09-13 00:00:00

Environment Waikato’s Biosecurity Committee is angry at an almost 500 percent increase in licence fees for people using pesticides for possum control.

This week the Committee heard that earlier this year, the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicine Group of MAF decided to make changes to pesticide regulations, without consulting users, before handing responsibility over to the Environmental Risk Management Authority.

Despite receiving “substantial” submissions, MAF decided the only change it would make was to increase fees for pesticide licences.

Biosecurity Group Manager John Simmons said the increase had major implications for regional councils, which had initiated community possum control schemes dependent on encouraging landowners to obtain cyanide and phosphorus licences. License fees had increased from $101.25 to $495.

“This is a huge increase, made worse by the fact that ERMA will extinguish all licenses in 2005 when the transitional period for the regulations expires, and require approved handlers licenses to be obtained.”

The Biosecurity Managers Group had met with both ERMA and ACVM staff and expressed “complete dissatisfaction with the process and the outcome”.

Mr Simmons said the process was “totally inadequate and unacceptable” and not at all what biosecurity managers were looking for. No notice had been taken of submissions. As a consequence EW was seeking a reversal of the fees increase at least until the new approved handlers licensing was introduced.

John Kneebone said he did not know how many hundreds of thousands of pests were being killed by people who were currently licensed. Councils would lose the goodwill of the hundreds of conscientious people who did their own pest control on a regular basis.

“People in an urban environment are making decisions who have no idea of the fragile nature of the rural community, and its importance. There is a huge army of volunteers out there who, if faced with the cost of licence, won’t do this work.”

Cr David Peart said the organisation seemed to be a bureaucratic institution that had no sense of reality.

The Committee decided to express its concerns to the National Possum Control Agencies, the AHB and Regional Councils Regional Affairs Committee, requesting that Regional Councils be given authority to provide training and licensing of pesticide users.

It will also seek reassurance from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry that ERMA and the ACVM had the practical experience to address such issues in a pragmatic manner.