Biosecurity operations a success in Hawkes Bay

The overall success of the region’s possum control operations was reported to Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s Environment and Services Committee in the Biosecurity annual report for 2014/15.

There are now more than 2500 Hawke’s Bay land users in the long term maintenance phase of the Possum Control Area (PCA) programme. The programme has also absorbed 60,000 hectares which were previously managed by TBFree NZ.

“Overall the programme is highly successful with very low numbers of possums being caught in monitoring traps,” said HBRC Land Services Manager Campbell Leckie. However, after 8 or more years of the programme, Biosecurity staff are concerned that some landowners have lost focus.

“Some land owners aren’t keeping up regular maintenance of bait stations, so put their property and those nearby at risk of possums returning in numbers.”

HBRC biosecurity staff are working with 10 to 15 percent of land users who are in this higher risk category.

“The urban pest management programme that began in 2008 is going very well, and we are seeing significant bird population recovery across the region,” said Mr Leckie.

“The programme may be small, cost wise, but has a big environmental benefit.”

He said that this programme has been extended into Central Hawke’s Bay for the first time, with the first stage in Waipawa now underway, and also into Awatoto and Meeanee.

The Cape to City project began during the last financial year, covering farms from Cape Kidnappers to Havelock North and south. A key part of this project will be assessing new technology use for predator control to lower costs and tackle more pests including stoats, feral cats and hedgehogs. There is a high level of monitoring by Landcare Research to assess the value of the work.

The aerial rook programme treated 51 nests across the eradication zone north of State Highway 5 during the last financial year, compared to 95 in the previous year. Biosecurity staff noted that the rook numbers are trending downwards overall but as birds move northwards into the control areas, there’s likely to be a variation in numbers controlled by council operations.

Immunity to Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD) was reported as being widespread in rabbit populations now, and there are isolated ‘hot spots’ where rabbits can be seen in high numbers. HBRC sets up rabbit control where there are significant impact on productive land, and a contractor is available for rabbit enquiries. There’s widespread control being done in a couple of heavily infested areas. HBRC staff are involved in a national collective investigating the potential for new strains of RHD.

A main focus of the plant pest control programme has been privet in urban areas, as it was thought to be a significant health risk, exacerbating allergies. Over the past year HBRC has used a contractor to work on the privet programme which has increased productivity and lowered costs. Meanwhile HBRC staff are investigating the link between privet and health issues, using allergy tests. Initial results show that, when tested, fewer than 3% of people with potential privet related health issues show privet reactors in blood tests. HBRC will be reviewing the privet control programme during early 2016.

The Regional Phytosanitary Pest Management Strategy was also reported on. This strategy was developed separately as it involves grower groups who are keen to work with HBRC to be more proactive in the early identification of disease and pest risks to crops. The Hawke’s Bay Fruit Growers reported that the strategy has been effective in managing abandoned and derelict orchards over the past 5 years without any intervention from the regional council.

HBRC also continues to take the lead in coordinating promotion and response to potential Didymo threat to the region’s lakes and water ways. A contractor is employed over the summer months to talk to river users to educate them about the need to ‘Check, Clean and Dry’.

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