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PM’s Presser: Govt Plays Possum On Gin-Trap Ban

PM’s Presser: Govt Plays Possum On Gin-Trap Ban

Images by Katie MacKinnon

A deal between Greens and the Government could see a new weapon in the war against possums, stoats, and other eco-pests -- but the Government has no plans yet to drop gin-traps from its arsenal.

Prime Minister John Key said Monday his government had agreed to fund a $4m trial of a new type of trap that could reduce the Department of Conservation’s use of poisons such as 1080.

Key said both parties agreed pests ruined native bush, killed protected species and posed a risk to New Zealand’s agricultural industries as they carried foot-and-mouth disease and bovine tuberculosis

A large-scale infection in the agricultural sector would be “devastating” – “So anything we can do to minimize the risk of these diseases and protect a billion-dollar industry has to be explored and tested.”

If successful the trap could prove an alternative to the use of 1080 in some parts of the country, he added.

Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson said pest control was an expensive business, but one which was absolutely necessary to protect New Zealand’s natural heritage.

The traps would cost more than conventional poison but would reduce labour costs by $80 per trap each year, meaning the net savings over the life of a trap “could be huge”.

The new design consists of a container similar to a gallon-jug with a pneumatic slug: if the bait is disturbed the trigger slams a metal bolt through the animal’s head, killing it instantly.

But Wilkinson would not say whether the Government hoped to phase out its controversial use of gin-traps, which catch animals by crushing their legs between two metal jaws.

Critics of gin-traps say they are inhumane and just as dangerous for native species such as kiwi, and in June the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals urged the Government to ban gin-traps following a string of incidents where household cats were caught in the traps.

Animals caught in gin-traps usually require amputation of limbs or euthanasia.

But Wilkinson would not be drawn on the issue, saying the Government wanted to take each step at a time.

“I don’t particularly like gin-traps; these appear to be a better prototype.

“But let’s wait and see if it works and see how effective it is before we make any decisions.”

The trial will begin next summer in two locations.

Possible locations include Northland’s Trounson Kauri Park, Hawkes Bay’s Boundary Stream, the Nelson Lakes National Park, and Urewera National Park.

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