Government squanders opportunity to wage war on rabbits

The Government’s failure to set targets or implement proper reporting measures for rabbit control as part of its $1.3 billion Jobs for Nature programme shows poor oversight and wasteful spending, National’s Conservation spokesperson Jacqui Dean says.

“Rabbits are an ecological disaster. They’re running rampant across large parts of New Zealand, posing a major threat to biodiversity and costing tens of millions a year in lost productivity.

“Answers to parliamentary questions show that the Department of Conservation (DOC) cannot readily identify projects undertaking rabbit control as part of Jobs for Nature. There is no record of the number of rabbits removed, no set expectations for individual employees, and no metrics in place other than the number of hectares treated.

“Regional councils and landowners also have an obligation to keep pest numbers in check, but the Crown is by far the biggest landowner and the Government should be leading the charge.

“The Conservation Minister has missed an opportunity to get a handle on the rabbit problem and take a data led approach that could inform future control work. All we’ve got is an undefined number of projects that include some element of rabbit control with individual projects left to determine their own measures of success.

“Performance based contracts are commonly used by councils, yet the Government is happy to pay by the hour with no expectation or target for how many pests are removed.

“Measuring success solely by the number of hectares treated is inadequate to say the least and begs the question of how the Minister can determine that project work is effective.

“The Conservation Minister’s casual attitude towards pest control means rabbits will continue their march across New Zealand, leaving significant damage in their wake.”