Smith disappointed over RCD decision

  • Dr Lockwood Smith

Agriculture Minister Lockwood Smith has instructed the Ministry of Agriculture (MAF) to do more work on the use of RCD to eradicate rabbits in New Zealand following today's decision not to approve the use of the virus yet. "I'm disappointed with this decision. Farmers in some areas are facing very high costs for rabbit control and I fully understand their frustration at the decision. RCD was seen by them to offer an economic way of controlling rabbits which are not only competing with livestock for food but are causing environmental degradation.

"Unfortunately the decision-maker, MAF's deputy director-general Peter O'Hara, has concluded that RCD may not be effective under New Zealand climatic conditions. He has argued that the introduction of RCD cannot be justified at this stage, given that it may not work here."

Dr Smith said he noted that Dr O'Hara had not stated that RCD should never be introduced. Rather, his decision was on the basis that RCD should not be introduced yet.

"Accordingly, I am inviting the applicant group to see me in the next two weeks to consider the next steps that should be taken regarding the very serious rabbit problem.

"Given that the decision was on the grounds that RCD may not be effective in New Zealand, I want to help see how we can make it effective for the future as part of a rabbit control strategy.

"I have instructed MAF to carry out an urgent investigation of how the virus is spread. I want our scientists working with Australian authorities to get answers to the questions raised by the report as soon as possible." Dr Smith said that any future application to use RCD here was likely to be considered by the new Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA).

"This will free MAF from its neutral, decision-making role over RCD and enable the ministry to work with the applicant group on the merits of introducing the virus," Dr Smith said.