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Proposed possum research programme on web

Proposed possum research programme on web

24 November 2006

The National Research Centre for Possum Biocontrol (NRCPB) is launching a web initiative to inform the public about its proposed research programme.

It has set up a website which outlines its progress thus far and potential methods that may be used to control possum numbers in the future.

The brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) is regarded as New Zealand's number one vertebrate pest in both economic and ecological terms.

It is estimated that possums cause production losses of around $40 million annually. Possums also affect New Zealand's native species through predation and consuming food sources. They are also the major source of bovine tuberculosis - the presence of which is a major threat to the marketing of our dairy, beef and deer products overseas.

The NRCPB is a partnership made up of AgResearch, Landcare Research the Animal Health Board, Department of Conservation, Ministry for Agriculture and Forestry and regional government.

It is largely funded by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology under an Outcome Based Investment (OBI) model with additional funding from some of the partners. The OBI approach emphasises research outcomes and a collaborative approach between scientists and potential users of the research.

AgResearch Scientist Dr Bernie McLeod says the OBI is preferable to the previous system under which research institutions competed against each other for funding.

"We are now working more closely with Landcare Research and various universities and are finding synergies that are helping to enhance research." "

Chair of the National Research Centre for Possum Biocontrol John Hellstrom says it is important that the public have input into the future direction of the possum biocontrol programme.

John Hellstrom says that some research is being carried out into methods to deliver biocontrol agents, such as using viruses or parasites that only affect possums, and into the development of toxins that would make possums sterile or would kill only possums or other marsupials.

"Several different methods of possum biocontrol may be developed, but whatever methods we eventually use need to be acceptable to the public. There is no point in going down a line of research that isn't acceptable to society."

John Hellstrom says the NRCPB is embarking on a significant stream of research to identify society's views and concerns about possum biocontrol so they can be addressed.

"Public acceptance is crucial for the success of our programme," he says.

The NRCPB website can be viewed at


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