Farmers and landowners are being warned of the the threat posed by wallabies to Central Otago after sightings of the pest in Lake Hawea and Cromwell.
The Otago Regional Council (ORC) held two meetings in Tarras and Ranfurly last week to outline the signs of a wallaby’s presence and what to do if one is spotted.
Sightings in Otago have increased over the past two years with 120 sightings or signs of wallaby presence in 2016.
One of these was in Lake Hawea, two were between Cromwell and Wanaka while three were destroyed around Wanaka and Hawea.
ORC strategic communications and engagement advisor Lisa Gloag said that no new or unexpected areas of wallaby sightings had been highlighted at the meetings, which was a promising sign.
“All of the people present at the meetings didn’t identify any new areas of wallaby sightings that we weren’t already aware of which is comforting to know,” Lisa said.
An established wallaby population in the region, as seen already in South Canterbury, would threaten native bush regeneration and mean competition with livestock for pasture, with three wallabies equivalent to one stock unit in terms of grazing pressure.
The pest adapts to new habitats and can thrive in environments from forest through to open tussock country and the only places they won’t be found are in towns, high production grasslands, such as dairy farms, and mountain tops.
A review of current and future predicted distributions and impacts of Bennett’s and Dama wallabies in mainland New Zealand released by the Ministry for Primary Industries in March 2016 predicted that the economic benefit of wallaby control to the South Island is more than $23.5 million annually.
If no action is taken the cost to the economy is predicted to escalate to around $67 million within ten years.
Land occupiers are warned to look out for footprints, droppings and discarded cotton daisy and to destroy wallabies on their land, reporting sightings or signs to ORC within two days.
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