Possums are designated a regional control animal pest through the Regional Pest Management Strategy. In rural areas, although landowners are responsible for the control of possums on their land, our staff and contractors work with them through PCA (possum control area) programmes.
We also are progressively tackling possums in and around urban areas, and residents can find out more about our Hawke's Bay Urban Biodiversity possum control programme below.
Description and background
Possums are a small nocturnal marsupial with a sharp face, pointed ears and a distinctive bushy tail. Animals are usually grey, black or brown with a light under-belly. Possums make a loud rasping call at night.
Possums damage native trees by eating leaves, shoots, berries and flowers, killing vegetation and depriving native species of food and habitat. Possums also eat the eggs and young of native birds.
Possums pose a threat to agriculture by grazing pasture, crops and tree plantations. They also spread bovine Tb, which threatens New Zealand’s export cattle, deer and dairy industries.
Possums are a nuisance around domestic properties, eating garden plants and fruit trees and inhabiting sheds, chimneys and roof spaces.
What is HBRC doing?
We are proud to report possums are much less of a problem in Hawke’s Bay than elsewhere in New Zealand thanks to HBRC-led and funded programmes and the input of farmers which has seen possums reduce to very low numbers.
About $13-14 million has been spent by HBRC on the PCA programmes which started in 2001, not including the time, costs and efforts of farmers. More than 710,000 hectares of farmland across Hawke's Bay region, plus reserves and urban areas, have possum control in place making this programme a landmark of its kind in New Zealand.
In 2015 the regional possum control programme was awarded the SOLGM Air NZ Environmental Achievement Award.
Our thanks to the farmers, urban residents, contractors, local councils who have committed to achieving and maintaining these low possum numbers.
What can you do - urban/semi-urban?
The last Hawke's Bay Urban Programme on the Heretaunga Plains will run in Pakowhai and Ruapare from October 2018 to March 2019.
This completes a gap between Hastings and Napier operations. There are already HuB programmes operating in Napier Hill, Havelock North, Mangaterere, Taradale, Park Island, Otatara/Waiohiki, Meeanee/Awatoto, Waipawa and Waipukurau.
Following the success of the early stages of the PCA farm-based programme, HBRC adapted it for the urban setting. The first HuB programme (Hawke’s Bay Urban Biodiversity) was in 2009 across Napier Hill, a defined central residential area with plenty of gullies and trees providing shelter and food for possums.
The HuB programme process:
- HBRC contractor contacts residents in an area to tell them about the programme and asks them about known possum infestations.
- Contractors do the initial possum control in consultation with residents who have identified a possum problem and their willingness to have the control on their property. Contractors use safe, proven control methods selected in discussion with the owner/occupier.
- After the possum population has been reduced, residents maintain bait stations after an initial knock down. Some people may get involved in groups to help others in their neighbourhood with this work.
- Local city and district council staff maintain possum control in their own parks and reserves.
If you have a possum problem in town (perhaps a particular tree or route favoured by the possums in your backyard) and would like some assistance, please contact HBRC's contractor Jake Bowcock on 021 280 2988.
What can you do – rural?
Farmers work with possum control areas – PCAs – they have established so they can work together and with HBRC more efficiently and cost-effectively to keep possum numbers low on their farms. PCA programmes are operating throughout Hawke’s Bay.
HBRC contractors did an initial 'knock down' of the pest. Farmers have followed up by keeping bait stations (which are mapped with GIS) supplied with bait to tackle remnant possum numbers. The aim is to keep possum numbers to or below a trap catch rate of 5% (ie over 100 traps, there should be fewer than 5 possums caught). At a minimum HBRC requires all landowners within a Possum Control Area to carry out an annual maintenance programme.
Contractors are also available to carry out maintenance control for farmers, and can be more efficient as they have the equipment and skills.