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Published: 2007-04-03 00:00:00

Environment Waikato’s draft Regional Pest Management Strategy (RPMS) treats feral pigs the same way it does many other organisms, according to biosecurity and heritage group manager John Simmons.

The draft RPMS, out for public comment until 10 April, gives Environment Waikato greater flexibility to control wild pigs, but only if they are shown to be damaging high value conservation areas or sensitive upper catchment watershed areas.

“This is similar to other animals, and even plants, that have to be managed so they don’t damage surrounding properties,” Mr Simmons said.

The current RPMS lists feral pigs in the ‘nuisance’ pest category, which also includes deer, rats and mynahs. Under the current strategy Environment Waikato has the ability to control ‘nuisance pests’ in high value conservation areas in collaboration with landowners. What the council can not do currently is require that pests be controlled, even if the animals are damaging important ecological areas.

“Like many organisms, whether wild pigs are a problem depends on where they are and what they are doing,” Mr Simmons said.

“The new proposal means pigs will be looked at on a case by case basis. In most places they won’t cause any concerns, but in some places they could be a problem and may need to be controlled.

“In almost all cases, Environment Waikato and land owners arrive at pest control solutions everyone finds acceptable. However, occasionally a land owner might absolutely refuse to control a pest on their property regardless of how much damage it is doing elsewhere.

“In those extreme situations, the proposed RPMS would allow pigs to be controlled without land owners’ permission, but only if the animals were shown to be damaging high value areas. The proposal also gives Environment Waikato the ability to determine how many animals are on a property and whether they are damaging other areas. Without that monitoring capacity the control provisions would be meaningless.

“The restriction to high value sites should reassure pig hunters worried about losing hunting opportunities. Environment Waikato does not want to eradicate feral pigs or even control them in most places. However, it does want the ability to reduce the damage pigs do in some areas.”

Mr Simmons said the council was interested in controlling pigs in “only the most sensitive areas, such as kiwi sanctuaries or extremely vulnerable catchments”.

“And ideally we would want the land owner or local pig hunting groups to do that control at little cost to ratepayers.”

Mr Simmons noted the regional council had multiple responsibilities and heard from many interest groups.

“The RPMS proposal tries to strike a reasonable balance by giving the council the ability to manage feral pigs when they are a threat to special areas,” he said.

Submissions on the proposed RPMS close on 10 April. Please send any comments to Environment Waikato, PO Box 4010, Hamilton East.