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Published: 2005-11-22 00:00:00

Landowners in parts of the Waitomo and Otorohanga areas will continue to be required to control ragwort and nodding and plumeless thistle for 50 m along their external boundaries.

Ragwort is a particular problem in dairying areas as it reduces the productivity of the land. Ragwort is unpalatable to most stock, particularly toxic to cattle and horses, and may taint milk or honey.

Nodding and plumeless thistles are aggressive pasture pests which reduce the carrying capacity of land, as well as obstructing and injuring stock. Once established, they can be difficult to eradicate because of their mixed age and size.

Landowner survey

Environment Waikato’s Biosecurity Group recently undertook a survey of rural landowners in parts of the Waitomo and Otorohanga areas. The postal survey, circulated to over 600 landowners, was to gauge opinion on the rules around clearance of ragwort and nodding thistle in their part of the Region.

This survey follows on from submissions made during the development of the Regional Pest Management Strategy in 2002, suggesting that the Council increase total control standards for nodding thistle and ragwort in more areas of the Region. One of the main reasons for this was the increase in dairy farm conversions. People felt infestations were increasing on hill country properties previously grazed by sheep, which control pasture pests to a greater degree.

However, the 2005 survey found that that this was not enough support for any rule change -- and hence the 50 m boundary rule will continue to apply as before.

Situation in other areas

Waikato’s core ‘dairy country’ areas of Central Waikato and Coromandel have a total control standard for these pests, meaning landowners are required to control the plants annually wherever they occur on their property.

All other less intensively farmed parts of the Region currently have a 50 m boundary control standard for ragwort and thistle. This means that landowners must keep their properties clear of these pests each year back 50 m from their external boundaries, to help minimise infestations to neighbouring properties.

The areas surveyed are more intensively farmed areas and included parts of Ngutunui, Te Kuiti and Pio Pio, covering a total area of 54,352 hectares.

The 24 per cent of land owners who responded were divided in their opinions. They expressed an even split on whether or not the Regional Council should increase from 50 m to total control and on the significance of these pests in their area.

Environment Waikato needed to have 75 per cent of respondents supporting the rule change to create a new standard. As only just over 50 per cent of respondents supported the extension to total control for both pests, the rule will remain unchanged.

“The Council’s long-term goal is to minimise the effects of pasture pests and ensure that communities can drive changes to rules if they need to, in response to changing farming practices,” said Environment Waikato Councillor David Peart.

“The landowners believe they can maintain a reasonable control under the existing rules -- and we are happy to support them in this process."