Environment Waikato is reviewing its rules for Community Possum Control Schemes to ensure that landowner maintenance achieves results.
Biosecurity Programme Manager Peter Russell told this week’s Biosecurity Committee meeting that the number of community schemes has doubled since 2002 and 12 are now operating in the Region or in the early planning stages. More communities were wanting to tackle possum problems, current schemes were being extended and the Animal Health Board programme in the Region was starting to pull back.
Communities previously involved in AHB-funded schemes had clearly expressed a desire to ‘maintain the gains’ made under the Tb programme, rather than abandon possum control, he said.
However some of the results of landowners doing their own control over the past four or five years had been disappointing, and many realised that the ‘self-help’ format was not sustainable long-term. Poor results also meant a poor return on the Council’s initial investment.
The current procedure allowed for maintenance work to be done by landowners, with Environment Waikato contractors facilitating control work and providing advice and monitoring. This approach had not worked particularly well in the Port Waikato, Hauturu-Honikiwi and Waingaro schemes, he said, because of steep difficult to control bush areas, large farms and possum re-infestation from neighbouring areas.
Using the Whitehall scheme as a trial, a new process was developed for maintenance where all ongoing control work was done by contracted professionals and paid for by a targeted property rate on all landowners in the area. This was more effective and sustainable.
Initial control work was 100 percent funded by Environment Waikato and the rate option was implemented for maintenance work, he said. Each scheme required 75 percent of landowners to support it and it then became binding on all landowners.
The current Regional Pest Management Scheme expired in June 2007 and staff had already started the review process, but such a change would have potential effects on landowners in some areas.
“In the next two years we will be facing new demands and there will be increased expectations placed upon Environment Waikato by various Regional communities as AHB funding is progressively withdrawn from the Region,” he said.
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