Wallaby sighting in Northland sparks pricey hunt

Wallabies are pests, authorities say.
Wallabies are pests, authorities say. Photo credit: Getty

The hunt is on for a wallaby believed to be roaming loose in the south Hokianga bush.

A witness says they saw the Australian marsupial more than once in Waimamaku, and now a dozen staff and contractors from the council, Department of Conservation and Te Roroa iwi are looking for the kangaroo-like creature.

They're searching about 500 hectares of farmland and native bush, hoping to catch the unwanted invader.

"They're even more of a threat to Northland than possums, which is why they're are formally classified as an 'exclusion pest' under the council's Regional Pest Management Plan due to the serious environmental, economic and other risks they pose," said biosecurity manager Kane McElrea of the Northland Regional Council.

Wallabies eat native and exotic seedlings and pasture.

Despite high-tech thermal gear and motion detection cameras, the wallaby has avoided capture. DNA tests of scat and fur have yet to confirm it even exists.

Biosecurity dogs are now on the case.

"If indeed a wallaby or wallabies are here, the most likely scenario is a deliberate, and illegal liberation from either the central North Island or Kawau Island," said Mr McElrea.

Wallabies have been in other parts of the country for about 150 years.

 "This is a potentially a very serious incursion and a proactive multi-agency response now significantly reduces the risk of another pest potentially becoming established in Northland," said council chairman Bill Shepherd.

So far $10,000 has been allocated to the hunt. If the presence of a wallaby population is confirmed, it will cost a lot more to eradicate it.

Anyone who sees the wallaby is urged to call the council's biosecurity team on 0800 002 004.

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