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Published: 2004-03-10 00:00:00

Waikato people support possum control in the Region and are prepared to pay for the benefits they get from it, a study has shown.

This week’s Environment Waikato Biosecurity Committee meeting heard results of a Waikato University project to find out the value of possum control to Waikato people. Post graduate researcher Sandra Barns surveyed a small sample of rural and urban landowners in the Region, and found strong support for possum control.

Her report – entitled Playing Possum – showed that 76 percent of people said they were prepared to pay towards possum control, with more rural people supporting it. Rural people supported community-based controls where they had ‘ownership’ rather than a centralised programme.

The median that rural landowners were prepared to pay was $1.50 per hectare, while urban landowners were prepared to pay $44 a year. Tb risk was the most important motivator for rural people, followed by loss and damage to native birds and tree species.

For urban landowners, bovine Tb was a concern and they rated pasture loss higher than rural people. Fewer possums and hearing more birdsong were important to both urban and rural people, while urban people rated native floras and fauna as more important than rural people did.

Rural people considered possums, mustelids and rabbits as important but did not considered hedgehogs or mice important. Rat control was important to urban people and mouse control was six times higher than for rural people. Urban people felt they wanted more information and said they never heard or saw possums around their properties.

Many rural landowners said Environment Waikato was an important source for pests and pest control information.

The study suggested a larger survey should be undertaken to determine the estimates of willingness to pay for possum control in the Region.

Biosecurity Group Manager John Simmons said a pivotal issue was the Animal Health Board’s response to what type of transitional funding would be made as bovine Tb operations were scaled down. AHB funding was just one piece of the jigsaw and the issue needed to be debated nationally.

Chairman Neil Clarke said there had been a huge breakthrough with the Labour Government in recognition of the importance of possum control and increasing levels of funding.

“Central Government have committed themselves to very large sums of money and we now need to persuade Government to move some of that money into the biodiversity area,” he said.