Rabbit control in Hawke's Bay is the landowner's responsibility and we provide information and resources on this.
Rabbits are designated a regional control animal pest. Landowners are responsible for the control of rabbits on their land. The rabbit virus RHDV1-K5 is active in the region.
Rabbits breed prolifically and compete directly with domestic stock for grazing, reducing the amount of pasture available. It has been estimated 10 rabbits eat as much pasture as one sheep.
Over-grazing also damages vegetation and leaves the soil exposed and vulnerable to erosion from wind and water. Rabbit burrowing encourages tunnel erosion and rabbits damage young timber tree crops, horticultural crops such as commercially grown vegetables, as well as fruit trees in orchards. In urban areas they can damage gardens.
Rabbit prone areas in Hawke’s Bay centre around pumice soils, coastal sand dunes and river beds such as the Waipawa, Tukituki, Ngaruroro and Tutaekuri.
The control of rabbits is managed under the Regional Pest Management Strategy 2013-2018 (a proposed plan has been publicly consulted). The aim is to minimise any significant adverse effects of rabbits on economic well-being or the environment, by maintaining rabbit populations at or below Level 4 on the McLean Scale. Landowners support and assistance is needed to achieve this.
The control of rabbits is at the landowner’s expense and rabbit numbers must meet the rule described below, unless Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has approved the control programme.
Every land occupier, from mid-January to mid-August, must maintain rabbit populations at or below level 4 of the McLean Scale over any part of their land. A breach of this rule is an offence under section 154 of the Biosecurity Act 1993.
Approved programmes may qualify for a subsidy under the HBRC pest control incentive scheme. If a landowner does not adhere to the rule or an approved management programme, under the Biosecurity Act 1993 Hawke’s Bay Regional Council may carry out control work and recover those costs from the landowner.
The RHDV1-K5 was approved for release, and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council was one of the regional councils that made use of this tool to reduce numbers of wild rabbits on farm land. The release was in April 2018.
This is not a new virus; it is a strain of the virus already widespread in New Zealand but the new strain may overcome resistance to the old disease. RHDV1 only causes infection in the European rabbit which is designated a pest in Hawke’s Bay. Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research information is that no other animal has developed an infection from being exposed to RHDV1.
More information on RHDV1-K5 from Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, plus frequently asked questions - https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/science/plants-animals-fungi/animals/vertebrate-pests/biological-control-of-rabbits
Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and NZ Veterinary Association advice is for owners of pet rabbits to see their vet to get their pets protected from the virus by vaccination.
Hawke’s Bay Regional Council contacted vets and pet shops ahead of the release date to advise them of the date and encourage them to remind customers about vaccination.
In addition to vaccination, the NZ Veterinary Association also recommends the following biosecurity measures for pet rabbit owners:
More information is available from the Veterinary Assoc on protecting pet rabbit breeds - http://www.nzva.org.nz/news/389789/Advice-for-pet-owners-on-protecting-their-pet-rabbits-from-RHDV1-K5-.htm
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