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Rabbit control in Hawke's Bay is the landowner's responsibility and we provide information and resources to support you.

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.

Description and background

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.

What is the Regional Council doing?

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.

What can you do?

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 the Regional Council 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.

Here’s a guide we’ve created to help you with rabbit control

Rabbit Calicivirus Release – April 2018

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 -

Pet Rabbit Protection

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:

  • Control insects (especially flies and fleas) as much as possible both indoors and outdoors. Flies are the main vector through which the virus is spread.
  • Remove uneaten food on a daily basis.
  • Keep your pet rabbit indoors where possible.
  • Rabbit-proof your backyard to prevent access by wild rabbits.
  • Regularly decontaminate equipment and materials (e.g. cages, hutches, bowls) with either 10% bleach or 10% sodium hydroxide. 10 minutes contact time is required, then rinse off.
  • Limit contact with and handling of unfamiliar pet rabbits.
  • Use good biosecurity measures (e.g. wash hands, shoes, clothing) after handling other people’s rabbits.
  • Avoid cutting grass and feeding it to your rabbits if there is the risk of contamination from wild rabbits.

More information is available from the Veterinary Assoc on protecting pet rabbit breeds -

What you can do to help

​We rely on Hawke's Bay residents to be our eyes and ears looking out and reporting unusual organisms so we can respond immediately. Whether you are a landowner, lifestyle property owner or urban resident, there are animal pests that will require dealing with at some time or another.

Find out more about specific animal pests in our information sheets.

If you would like help with a pest control problem, or wish to report anything you think our Pest Control team should know about you can do so on our Fix It page.



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While every endeavour has been taken by the Hawke's Bay Regional Council to ensure that the information on this website is accurate and up to date, Hawke's Bay Regional Council shall not be liable for any loss suffered through the use, directly or indirectly, of information on this website. Information contained has been assembled in good faith. Some of the information available in this site is from the New Zealand Public domain and supplied by relevant government agencies. Hawke's Bay Regional Council cannot accept any liability for its accuracy or content. Portions of the information and material on this site, including data, pages, documents, online graphics and images are protected by copyright, unless specifically notified to the contrary. Externally sourced information or material is copyright to the respective provider.

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