10 Mar 2010

Rabbit numbers on the rise in Central Otago

5:35 am on 10 March 2010

Otago Regional Council aims to get landholders focusing more attention on rabbit control, as numbers of the pest build again in parts of Central Otago.

The council introduced a new pest management strategy last year which tightens the rules on rabbit control.

It requires all farmers and lifestyle block owners to submit their own control plans to the council, for reducing rabbit numbers on their properties.

Failure to comply by 2012 could result in prosecution, with possible fines of up to $100,000 and a prison sentence.

The council held a work shop in Cromwell on Monday night as part of its efforts to make farmers, orchardists and other land owners more aware of their responsibilities.

Regional services manager Jeff Donaldson says while some landowners are keeping on top on pest control, the rabbit population in parts of Central Otago is back up to where it was before the release of the virus that killed large numbers of them in the late 1990s.

He says a new pest management strategy has lowered the maximum allowable level for rabbits, with the result that 60,000ha are not complying, compared with 10,000ha previously.

It has also meant rabbit control other than poisoning are able to be used, including shooting, fumigation, and rabbit proof fencing, he says.

Mr Donaldson says while the rabbit virus is still in the environment it is not having the impact it had when it was released.

He says landowners who have relied on it without doing any secondary pest control will now find themselves in breach of the new limit on rabbit numbers.