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Land owners, hunters to be consulted

Land owners and hunting groups will be consulted before any control of feral pigs or wild deer takes place, under Environment Waikato’s revised Regional Pest Management Strategy (RPMS). 

The council made a clear commitment to developing closer relationships with hunting clubs and other pest management stakeholders at its meeting in Hamilton today.

The 2007-2012 RPMS, adopted today, is a five-year plan setting out how the council will manage plant and animal pests to protect the Waikato environment and economy, and public health.

The majority of the 356 submissions Environment Waikato received on the strategy related to a proposal to allow feral pigs and wild deer to be controlled in high value conservation areas and sensitive catchments. Many submitters said deer and pigs were a resource and should not be considered pests at all.

In response to submissions, the council amended the RPMS proposal to:

  • recognise the value of wild deer and feral pigs as a resource
  • clarify that deer and pigs are not a major environmental concern in most of the region
  • emphasise prior consultation with land owners is essential – as with all pest management operations
  • specify that land owners and hunters would be approached first if any control of deer or pigs was necessary.

“Many of the points raised by pig and deer hunters were things Environment Waikato does normally as part of consultation with the community for all pest control operations,” Environment Waikato chairman Jenni Vernon said.

“But they were right that the original RPMS proposal did not do a good job of spelling those procedures out clearly enough. The final document is much more explicit.”

No control of feral pigs or wild deer would be considered unless these animals were shown to be damaging valuable natural resources.

The plan explicitly limits Environment Waikato’s interest to these potential situations. There will be no wholesale control or attempt to eradicate feral pigs and wild deer. In all cases, no control of feral pigs or wild deer will happen without land owners and hunting groups being engaged.

“We have no power to control pigs or deer unless they are proven to be damaging valuable natural resources,” Cr Vernon said.

“They can do damage, but in most cases and in most places, this will not warrant their control by Environment Waikato.”

Assessment of a site would only occur if there was reason to believe pigs or deer were damaging natural resources at that site, and land owners would be consulted before any assessment took place.

If control was necessary, the council would:

  • work with affected land owners to identify a suitable approach
  • talk with local hunting clubs and invite them to get involved
  • undertake control only if private, voluntary measures were unsuitable or insufficient.

“No Environment Waikato operation is undertaken without talking to land owners, and very rarely do we do pest control without land owner consent – it is a last resort,” Cr Vernon said.

“The revised RPMS gives us the opportunity to control these animals only if the need arises, in order to protect vulnerable native ecosystems and wildlife.”

Legal advice on the public consultation process Environment Waikato had undertaken for the 2007-2012 Regional Pest Management Strategy confirmed it had, in all respects, complied with all statutory and legal requirements.

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