Possums should be treated as a 'resource' a member of the West Coast Conservation Board says. Photo / CC BY 2.0 G= / Flickr
By Brendon McMahon, Local Democracy Reporter
Opossums should be treated as a "resource" with a financial incentive to entice hunters to help contain numbers of the pest, a South Westland member of the West Coast Conservation Board says.
Ngāi Tahu board member Rob Wilson proposed considering the usefulness of opossums for the local economy during a conservation board meeting in Karamea, where the Department of Conservation's national predator management programme was being discussed.
Board chairman Mike Legge of Charleston noted the effectiveness of aerial 1080 poison in the management of opossums.
"It is the most effective poison - animals die quickly. In the last two to three years I haven't seen one opossum roadkill," Legge said.
Wilson, who is also a Hari Hari dairy farmer, said it was a shame culled opossums were going to waste.
"When they were under control down our way was when there was a financial incentive (for trapping)," Wilson said.
Before using 1080, commercial operations "which didn't cost the taxpayer," were a way of benefiting the local economy while controlling the spread of possums.
"I see it as a resource. There's a resource that is going to waste that maybe we can utilise," Wilson said.
Recovery of opossum skins and fur has been a long-standing practice on the West Coast, with the 'wool' highly sought after for a variety of uses including blending with other materials to make warm clothing.
DOC Western South Island operations director Mark Davies said control of opossums was "a very complex matter".
"We'd all like to see the commercial industry reinstated."
However, the department also had to balance other competing interests in dealing with pest species, including the farmed venison sector, which did not want to see DOC "subsidise" the commercial recovery of feral deer.
Davies said the current approach to opossum control was eventually to totally eradicate the pest.
"The vision is Predator Free 2050... but we haven't got a silver bullet yet."
Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air