Gordon Copeland Press Release
For Immediate Release
Wednesday, 5th March 2008
Independent MP Gordon Copeland today asked the Minister of Conservation, Steve Chadwick, questions in the House concerning the need to preserve this unique breed of goats.
“I hope this issue will be picked up by the media and I want to provide some background information with that in mind (you will also be able to find numerous references through the internet).,” said Mr Copeland.
“As far as is known, these goats were introduced to Arapawa Island by James Cook in 1773. DNA testing carried out under the auspicious of the American Livestock Breed’s Conservancy by Dr. Phil Sponenberg at the University of Cordover, Spain, have confirmed that these goats are a distinct breed unto themselves.”
“It seems likely that they are descended from the Old English goat which became extinct in 1954. Accordingly it is now vitally important that New Zealand seeks to preserve this unique species in perpetuity.”
“However, Government policy, as carried out through the Department of Conservation, appears to be blind to that reality and the guardianship obligations which it places on New Zealand.”
“I understand that hundreds of letters on this subject have been sent to the Minister of Conservation, Steve Chadwick, from all around the globe. Letters have also gone to the Prime Minister. The Minister’s response, to date, is that it is not part of DOC’s role to protect ‘these introduced species. It is more appropriate that this occur on private land.’”
“It is fair to say that the international community is staggered that, in view of the history and the uniqueness of the breed, the Government is not putting effort into a definite evidence based plan to ensure the long term survival of the goats.”
“I believe there are some logical inconsistencies in the Government’s thinking. On the one hand they claim that it is necessary to shoot the goats to preserve vegetation on the island because it contains some ‘nationally significant…forest communities and plant species’. That conclusion is hotly disputed. Critics point out that since the goats have been present on the island for some 230 years, the plants referred to have proven, without a doubt, that they are quire capable of surviving with a little nibbling by a small number of goats!”
“Indeed, some botanists claim that many of the plants involved actually flourish when regularly ‘clipped’ by the goats, just as they do in hedges and gardens throughout the length and breadth of the land.”
“They believe DOC’s attitude is biased towards indigenous plants and takes no account of the long history of the goats in this country.”
“Bob Kerridge of the SPCA, and Dianne Haworth, Editor of Animal Voice both make the point that the proposed cull of these goats has strong parallels with the Kaimanawa Wild Horse episode some years ago. In that case also, DOC were intent on the eradication of the horses, claiming that they were endangering unique species of flora etc. After a huge public outcry, the Government were forced to back off and it was subsequently shown that the plants in question are common in the South Island!”
“Dianne Haworth will, once the story breaks, be seeking detailed information from DOC concerning the exact species of flora which they claim are being negatively effected –something they have so far failed to do.”
“Please note that I have also be tabled a petition with Parliament signed by 1215 ‘concerned citizens of the international community’, from the USA, Great Britain, France, Australia, Canada, and other nations who strongly oppose the cull.”
“Simply stated, New Zealand’s international reputation will suffer if we allow the shooting to proceed.”
“One further point – It is estimated that there are only 120 goats living on the DOC estate in Arapawa Island. In addition, there are some 124 animals in the USA, 20 in Great Britain and 163 in New Zealand; in private ownership. However, the experts tell me that the genetic pool, even in the USA, is far too small to ensure the long term survival of this breed. A herd of at least 500 goats is necessary to establish a viable breeding programme. They are adamant that the gene pool, which is uniquely carried by the small wild herd on the island, is vital to the breed’s long term survival.”
“Not one single goat should be shot!”
P.S. A press release from Betty Rowe, now 76, who has lived on Arapawa Island since 1973, was issued yesterday and is available on Scoop. It provides additional information.