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Farmers Put Goose On The Menu

Friday 18 January 2008

Farmers Put Goose On The Menu

Wairarapa farmers have put Canada goose on the menu to try and combat the surging goose population in the district.

Federated Farmers is holding a ‘Time the Goose Was Cooked’ barbeque at Henley Lake near Masterton, at lunchtime today (Friday January 18) to publicise problems growing goose numbers are creating for both agriculture and the environment

“Under the Canada Goose Management Plan for Wairarapa, geese are meant to be capped at a population of 2,000. An official Fish and Game count done on Lake Wairarapa this month (January 2008) totals the birds at 3,683. This is well over 2,000, the target population for the entire Wairarapa district, said president of Federated Farmers for the Wairarapa Anders Crofoot.

“Fish and Game are obliged to manage Canada geese under Schedule One of the Wildlife Act. Over the past few years they have managed the population on Lake Wairarapa with an annual helicopter cull with support from farmers but we have learnt that this year it is not going to happen.

Lakeside farmer Stewart Barton says the helicopter moulting cull is the most effective way to manage the birds.

“Farmers received a letter from Fish and Game in December informing them instead of the helicopter cull there would be a hunters’ cull with around 70 hunters shooting geese over a weekend in February.

“Due to the large size of Lake Wairarapa this type of cull will not be effective.

“Controlling pests through recreational hunting doesn’t work. Hunters are fine at maintaining acquired Canada goose population levels but this method alone does not achieve the 'knock-down' required to reach the agreed capped level, said Mr Barton.

Mr Crofoot said: “Fish and Game has a huge conflict of interest here – they are responsible for keeping numbers capped yet are bowing to pressure from hunting members who want large numbers of birds available for recreational hunting purposes.

“While there is a cost to a helicopter cull, the cost of continuing to feed geese day after day is borne solely by individual farming families at the expense of their livestock. This cost is not recoverable. Farmers shouldn’t have to pay for the recreational pastime of others.

“Farmers are upset there has been no consultation about the change in the management plan and are concerned about where this problem will end up.

“Fish and Game is responsible to the Minister of Conservation. Without the helicopter cull they will not meet their obligations under Schedule One of the Wildlife Act, the Minister of Conservation needs to be aware of this and act accordingly, said Mr Crofoot.

Wairarapa is not the only district with ‘grubby goose’ issues. The population of Canada geese in the South Island is also causing problems for farmers.

Geese can lay up to eight eggs every year so the rate of population growth is rapid.

Geese are chronic polluters of pasture and lakes and two adult Canada geese eat the equivalent grass that one sheep eats per day.

The Department of Conservation is currently reviewing the level of protection for some New Zealand wildlife, including the status of Canada goose.

Federated Farmers has submitted that Canada geese should be placed under the Wildlife Act's fifth schedule – giving it no protection and the possibility of being tagged a pest, allowing more effective culling techniques.

"Losing its protection would allow landowners, councils and others in the community to act more aggressively to bring this pest down to manageable levels," Mr Crofoot said.


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