Budget 2020: Funding for pest control aims to rein in growing wallaby population

Farmers and forestry workers are set to benefit from a $315 million package funding predator control across the country.

The support includes $27 million for the Ministry for Primary Industries to get populations of wallabies under control in the Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Canterbury and Otago; $40 million for Land Information NZ to undertake pest and weed control in rivers on Crown land; and $100 million for jobs to help control wilding pines. 

A further $148 million will go to the Department of Conservation to ramp up pest control and eradication and to work with iwi to prevent the collapse of North Island forests.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said the funding was an attempt at "supercharging" the efforts to return native bush to health.

“Supporting iwi efforts to save iconic North Island forests from collapse because of the impacts of possums, pigs and deer is crucial to helping nature and the climate," Sage said.

"Much needed pest and weed control led by Land Information New Zealand will be done on Crown land in South Island riverbeds and of aquatic weeds in iconic lakes such as Lake Wanaka."

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said the funding to fight the spread of wallabies populations was necessary to protect agricultural and forestry assets.

"They are a growing threat to farmers because they compete with livestock for food. Three Bennett’s wallabies can eat the equivalent of one 50kg sheep. They can also destroy agricultural crops and plantation forestry and damage fences," O'Connor said.

"Wallaby populations are spreading and increasing rapidly in several regions, which is creating additional pressures for agriculture, forestry and conservation. This initiative will build on existing efforts to knock the wallaby population back."

Wallabies currently cost the country $28 million a year in economic losses, but according to a Ministry for Primary Industries estimate last year, that figure could skyrocket to $84 billion if the spread isn't stopped.

The $100 million funding package to tackle wilding pines was part of a 10-year programme aimed at protecting farmland, water availability and biodiversity.

The programme was hoped to provide jobs for around 600 people, O'Connor said.