Waikato Regional Council’s new regional pest management plan has today been put into operation on the casting vote of the chairperson Paula Southgate.
Cr Southgate said after the council meeting the decision would not rule out councillors challenging parts of the plan they were concerned about in future where appropriate.
The tight vote followed concerns from some councillors about the wording of the plan and their understanding of it.
Cr Kathy White was concerned about wording that suggested a potential increase in the use of toxins to control pests and other matters. Cr Clyde Graf moved the plan lie on the table pending further discussion, even though others noted the plan had been developed under a proper and expensive process and couldn’t be changed without starting the process over again.
The vote on Cr Graf’s motion to let the plan lie on the table was split 6-6. The motion was then defeated by Cr Southgate’s casting vote.
Subsequently, the vote on making the plan operative was passed on the chair’s casting vote.
Those voting against making it operative were councillors Graf, White, Stark, Bramley, Hennebry and Husband. Those voting for include councillors Southgate, Buckley, Simcock, Kneebone, Alan Livingston and Vercoe.
Cr Southgate said convention dictated that the casting vote should be cast with the “status quo”, in this case the motion on the agenda.
Following the main vote, in recognition of the concerns raised, the council passed a motion from Cr Timoti Bramley, noting the council’s power to review part or all of the plan. The motion also noted the opportunity to review it in the reasonably near future when the council considered whether the plan was aligned to a new national policy direction.
“I feel the outcome is a sensible balance between recognizing the long and expensive process we’ve been through, whilst also acknowledging that councillors still have ways to change parts of the plan they remained concerned about,” Cr Southgate said afterwards.
“Councillors will also have a chance to give their views on the operational plan that will be developed to give effect to the RPMP.”
The plan itself will usher in new rules to keep on top of the spread of Canada goose, red-eared slider turtles and the damaging pest plant tutsan. It sets out why and how more than 150 pests will be controlled in the Waikato region over the next 10 years.
Pest control is one of the council’s largest expenditure areas. The work directly benefits many ratepayers, as effective management of pests preserves native species and protects tourism, agriculture, horticulture and aquaculture.
“The changes to the plan on Canada goose, turtles and tutsan reflect their growth as an actual or potential pest,” said Cr Southgate.
“But much of the plan is the same as previous years because the underlying pest issues have not changed and still need to be managed.”
Numbers are on the rise in the Waikato, with the birds fouling pasture and waterways, and eating newly-sown crops. Research shows that five of these geese can consume the same amount of grass as one sheep. Geese are also becoming more common in harbours and lakes but their overall ecological impact is unclear.
Due to the rise in numbers, the Canada goose has been identified in the plan as an environmental and production threat. And, while not declared a pest, the plan does allow the council to work collaboratively with landowners, hunters and other agencies to control them in certain circumstances.
“The regional council’s biosecurity team has the knowledge and skills to help landowners experiencing high numbers of Canada goose to manage them effectively,” said Ms Southgate.
Wild red-eared slider turtles are now classed as a pest in the Waikato. The new rule for this popular children’s pet has been introduced because it poses a threat to New Zealand’s native freshwater life.
The new rule doesn’t prevent people from owning a turtle but it does give the council the ability to control red-eared slider turtles in the wild.
It is now also an offence for people to release a red-eared slider turtle into the wild but the real purpose of the new rule is to make people aware that these pets can easily turn into pests.
“If released into the wild, these turtles will eat native species such as eels and fish, as well as introduced trout, so we want to ensure that they don’t become established in our waterways” said Ms Southgate.
The highly invasive tutsan is now classified as a “total control” pest plant. That means landowners must destroy all tutsan on their properties and failure to do so could result in the regional council taking enforcement action.
Landowners who think they might have infestations of tutsan can talk to the council’s pest plant officers for advice on control methods.
Any inquiries about pests should be directed to freephone number 0800 BIOSEC.
The new plan will be available from next week at www.waikatoregion.govt.nz/rpmp