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New policy for pests

More help for landowners protecting key natural areas, a harder line on environmental weeds and a plant pest exchange programme are all in Environment Waikato’s proposed Regional Pest Management Strategy, which opens for submissions on January 31.

The RPMS identifies the plants and animals considered pests in the Region. It also outlines who should control the pests and whether they can be eradicated or need rules to control them, depending on their threat to the Region.

In the four years since the first Strategy was released, some new pest issues have arisen while some existing policies needed to be reviewed, Biosecurity Group Manager John Simmons told this weeks’ Biosecurity Committee meeting.

There is an increased emphasis on environmental weeds, with several new pests being added to the list that landowners must control. These include privet in urban areas, pampas and elaeagnus. Environment Waikato will also control several new species, including climbing spindleberry, evergreen buckthorn and white bryony.

A plant exchange programme has been proposed to help landowners replace some weeds with other more desirable species. Vouchers will be provided to landowners asked to clear elaeagnus, privet or pampas which entitle them to free or discounted replacement plants.

There is little change to the rules for agricultural pests, but there are new rules requiring privet to be cleared in urban areas from 1 July, 2003 following a two year publicity period.Many resources are spent on enforcing gorse control, and the benefits did not appear to outweigh the costs, Mr Simmons said. Rules for ragwort and thistles are not proposed to be changed, although some change in clearance areas are suggested.

Rules will also be tightened for magpies and wasps. The proposed changes will allow Environment Waikato to enforce the control of these pests if they are causing a danger or nuisance on a property.

Greater priority has also been given to eradicating rook and wallaby, now that better controls are possible.

The strategy also allows Plant Pest Officers to enforce landowners to control some pests. Under the proposed changes, Environment Waikato will be able to fund pest control and give fencing help to landowners of Key Ecological Sites.

Mr Simmons said the changes would provide a more robust and environmentally useful policy to deal with pests in the Waikato. The strategy has been developed through several meetings with interested groups over the past few months and 36 written submissions were received.

The submissions were generally supportive of Environment Waikato’s proposals. A summary or the full policy will be available through Environment Waikato’s Freephone 0800 800 401 from January 31. Written submissions close on Friday March 2, 2001.

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