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DoC lifts predator control as National questions future plan

DoC lifts predator control as National questions future plans

First published in Energy and Environment on June 6, 2019.

National have questioned whether the Government is committed to the Predator Free 2050 project after it received no new funding in the Budget. Despite this, the Budget does show the Department of Conservation is significantly lifting its targets for predator control.

Predator Free was set up under a time-limited fixed appropriation of $23.5m in 2016 with the intention of it levering more money for pest eradication and research. This appropriation has $9.5m left and expires June 30, 2020.

The Budget was silent on its future. National’s Conservation spokesperson Sarah Dowie suspects this is due to Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage’s ideology. “It shows how close-minded the Minister is given Department of Conservation officials have told her that biotechnology could provide a breakthrough alternative to 1080 poison.”

While the Green Party remains closed to anything remotely connected with genetic modification, the Government has put more money into Predator Free with the announcement last year of funding from the Provincial Growth Fund. Some of this was tagged for work on non-1080 predator control methods, but the majority was for conventional large scale predator control methods.

The Budget also shows DoC is lifting its targets for wider pest control as it ramps up operations with last year’s funding increases now flowing through.

For instance, in the current 2018/19 year DoC estimated there was 1,159,281 hectares under sustained rat control and 750,636 hectares receiving treatment for rats and mustelids. In 2019/20 this lifts to 1,353,600 and 1,418,400 hectares respectively.

Likewise, land under sustained possum control lifts from 1,486,924 hectares to 1,563,000, while land receiving treatment for possums goes from 146,944 to 256,000.

Areas which are under sustained deer control remain unchanged at 980,000 hectares but the areas of land receiving some treatment for deer increases from 294,253 to 401,500.

Pest control areas which are receiving little or no change include goats and weed control. Hectares of land under sustained wilding conifer control also falls from 1,801,259 to 1,797,000 hectares, but hectares of land receiving treatment for wilding conifers using a site-led approach increases from 170,545 to 269,500 hectares.

First published in Energy and Environment on June 6, 2019.

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