Possum-control work reaches milestone

Date 27 June 2019

Possum-control work reaches milestone

The support of farmers and local communities will ensure the TBfree programme in Central Otago eradicates bovine TB and brings back native birds, says OSPRI chief executive Stephen Stuart.

The Alice Burn East operations near Luggate could be the last aerial 1080 drop in the region for TB eradication purposes. In seven years, by 2026, TB should be gone from cattle and deer herds, and from the possums that transmit disease from wildlife/

The TBfree programme managed by OSPRI aims to eradicate bovine tuberculosis in New Zealand. There are still large ground-based possum control operations and disease surveillance work to be done, but in the southern South Island the goal is getting closer.

OSPRI is the disease management and traceability company working on behalf of the Government and farming sector - DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb and Deer Industry New Zealand are shareholders - to eradicate bovine tuberculosis from New Zealand by 2025.

The farmer-funded programme has systematically driven a rolling front of pest control to get possum numbers low so TB can't persist. Since 2011, when there were more than 400 infected herds, TBfree has cleared TB-infected possums from over 2 million hectares of risk area, including important areas like the Hokonui Hills near Gore.

As the wildlife transmission risk dropped, so did the infected herd numbers - today we're down to fewer than 30 nationally, with only seven infected herds in the southern South Island.

The Alice Burn East op we completed last week was key to the programme. We'd postponed the operation several times in previous seasons because of weather.

Apart from the central benefit of eradicating an infectious and destructive disease, TBfree pest control supports the recovery of native bush habitat and boosts the breeding success of endangered native species.

OSPRI's TBfree work complements programmes such as DOC's Battle for Our Birds and the work of conservation groups in areas such as the Landsborough, where a breeding boom in mohua (yellowhead) numbers has followed a sustained programme of aerial 1080 drops.

Although we've had vocal opposition from some local residents, through openly providing information about the safe use of aerial 1080, we've found broad support from members of the community who understand the importance of the eradication work to the region's farmers - farmers who provide the backbone of the community.

TBfree possum control work is safe and temporary. There is still a lot of work needed to achieve freedom from Tb in possums nationally, but farmers will tell you a few more years of possum control for Tb eradication will ensure their businesses and lifestyles are protected.

We'll continue the programme of possum control, Tb testing and stock movement monitoring to deliver Tb eradication for New Zealand's farmers.

Link to Otago Daily Times article here.

Mohua credit James Reardon 12

Mohua (Yellowhead)