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Copeland not giving up on Arapawa Island Goats

Gordon Copeland Press Release
For Immediate Release
Friday, 14th March 2008

Copeland not giving up on Arapawa Island Goats

Independent MP Gordon Copeland yesterday forwarded an open letter to the Minister of Conservation calling for dialogue around the proposed cull of these goats. Mr Copeland believes that with a little goodwill, it should be possible to create a “win-win” situation which can both secure the survival of the goats themselves and, at the same time, avoid damage to flora on the island.

He emphasises that there is still considerable opposition to the cull both from within New Zealand and increasingly, from rare breeds, and animal rights groups in the USA, UK, and Europe.

“In fact, if we don’t talk the matter through, I am concerned that there will be a unseemly confrontation, on the island, between the Department of Conservation (DOC) staff and those who oppose the cull,” said Mr Copeland.

“I am advised that many volunteers are now waiting to come to the island and confront DOC, should the cull go ahead.”

“This should be avoided. The continued presence of the goats on the island from the time of James Cook in the 1770s, until now, constitutes an important part of New Zealand’s natural history. With a little give and take, there is no reason why we cannot both celebrate and preserve that history whilst, at the same time, limiting the habitat of the goats to a relatively small area on a large island with the rest set aside as a reserve for native flora and fauna to thrive.”

“The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy sums up the present situation very well. They have said that ‘highly adapted populations like the Arapawa, take centuries to develop but only hours to destroy’. They have written to Prime Minister Helen Clark along those lines, as have a number of other internationally representative groups.”

Attachment: Letter to the Minister

ENDS

Hon. Steve Chadwick
Minister of Conservation

Dear Minister,

Re: Arapawa Island Goats

I would like, if at all possible, to dialogue with you a little further concerning the proposed cull of these goats.

I am advised that Arapawa Island is around 17,000 acres in extent. No one has accurate information about the number of goats but it is has been put to me that the population is probably no greater than around 120 and that they live in an area which is probably no larger than 2-3,000 acres. In other words, they occupy only a small section of the Island's total area.

The total number of goats in private ownership is estimated to be 307 (124 in the USA, 20 in Great Britain, and 163 in New Zealand) so that, if the estimated number in the wild on the island is correct, the total herd, worldwide, is just 427.

The Rare Breeds Survival Trust of the UK define a goat breed as being "at risk" if there are less than 1,000 breeding females in existence so, even on a global basis, the Arapawa goat is definitely considered to be "at risk" of eventual extinction.

In your letter to me dated 21 February you justify the cull on the basis that Arapawa Island contains some "nationally significant... forest communities and plant species". You also point out, however, that part of the reserve has already been fenced.

Given these realities, it seems to me that through dialogue and cooperation, the potential is there to create a "win-win" situation which can both secure the survival of the goats themselves and, at the same time, minimise the damage to flora to which you refer.

Instead of using the blunt instrument of a cull, with all of its negative connotations and the strong opposition both from NZ and overseas, a commitment to talk with people such as Betty Rowe, the SPCA, and representatives of other groups, could I suggest lead to better outcomes all round.

In particular, after an impartial count that includes the feral goats remaining on the island, I would like to advance the notion of a management plan. The management plan could look at a variety of options including the enclosure of the goats in a special area on the island designated for heritage breeds (perhaps including sheep and pigs, in addition to goats) and its development as a tourist attraction.

In the process the Department of Conservation could garner a new group of friends and supporters.

The continued presence of the goats on the island from the time of James Cook until now, constitutes an important part of New Zealand's natural history and, rather than seeing the goats as a pest to be eradicated, this whole issue could, with some good will, be turned around to create opportunities which would be of value not only to New Zealanders, but to our heritage status within the international community.

With that in mind I would be grateful for an opportunity to discuss possible options with you prior to the cull proceeding.

Yours sincerely,

Gordon F Copeland MP

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