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Published: 2001-09-28 00:00:00

Possums in the Taupo area have taken a hammering this winter from Environment Waikato possum control operations.

The Regional Council is just completing its winter programmes which have achieved excellent results, according to Biosecurity Group Manager John Simmons. Monitoring after the operations has shown an average of less than one possum caught in every 100 traps set over three nights.

Areas treated include all the western lakeshore reserves of Lake Taupo, the bush areas of Pihanga, Tokaanu Saddle and Rotoaira, extending up to the lower slopes of Mt Tongariro. An area of the Kaimanawa Range to the east of Hautu and Rangipo prison farms has also been treated with 1080 treated carrot bait.

Contractors have just completed the northern part of East Taupo forest and Mt Tauhara.

Tb reactor cattle numbers have fallen from 660 in 1992/93 to only five in the year ended in June. In the Turangi area, infected herds have gone from 31 in 1992/93 down to two now. The objective for the Waikato Region is to have only three infected herds by 2011/12 and be officially free from Tb.

Manager of Tongariro Prison Farms Paul Winterburn said the possum control work had been well done. His cattle herd had been clear of Tb for two years, which gave him and others more confidence in pastoral farming.

“The Animal Health Board Tb control programme has been effective. We still have to achieve total freedom from Tb, but this area has lost the stigma of being an intractable Tb problem area.”

The results were “fantastic”, according to Waikato Regional Animal Health Committee chairman Gifford McFadden.

“The extensive and successful 1080 possum control programmes which Environment Waikato and their contractor Epro Limited have undertaken have resulted in these gains being made. What critics of 1080 need to think about are the economic benefits that freedom from Tb will give this Region.

“They also need to understand the spin-off benefits that 1080 provides in terms of kaka, kokako and kiwi survival.

“The anti-1080 groups should go into areas like Pihanga and Waihaha and talk to their local farmers about the benefits possum control has given them. For Taupo, the benefits are very obvious in Mt Tauhara where vegetation has improved dramatically in the last four years since initial possum control.”

Environment Waikato Biosecurity Committee chairperson Helen Lane said the need to achieve official freedom from Tb for the Waikato and New Zealand is extremely compelling.

“If exports of beef, venison or dairy products are embargoed by non-tariff trade sanctions through Tb infections in our cattle herds, a huge proportion of New Zealand’s overseas income would be affected.”