Rabbits are designated a regional control animal pest. Landowners are responsible for the control of rabbits on their land.
IMPORTANT: Hawke's Bay Regional Council will be releasing the rabbit virus RHDV1-K5, timetabled for the week of 23 April 2018. Read more information below.
Description and background
Rabbits breed prolifically and compete directly with domestic stock for grazing, reducing the amount of pasture available. It has been estimated 10 rabbits eat as much pasture as one sheep.
Over-grazing also damages vegetation and leaves the soil exposed and vulnerable to erosion from wind and water. Rabbit burrowing encourages tunnel erosion and rabbits damage young timber tree crops, horticultural crops such as commercially grown vegetables, as well as fruit trees in orchards. In urban areas they can damage gardens.
Rabbit prone areas in Hawke’s Bay centre around pumice soils, coastal sand dunes and river beds such as the Waipawa, Tukituki, Ngaruroro and Tutaekuri.
What is HBRC doing?
The control of rabbits is managed under the Regional Pest Management Strategy 2013-2018 (currently being reviewed and a proposed plan has been publicly consulted). The aim is to minimise any significant adverse effects of rabbits on economic well-being or the environment, by maintaining rabbit populations at or below Level 4 on the McLean Scale. Landowners support and assistance is needed to achieve this.
What can you do?
The control of rabbits is at the landowner’s expense and rabbit numbers must meet the rule described below, unless Hawke’s Bay Regional Council has approved the control programme.
Every land occupier, from mid-January to mid-August, must maintain rabbit populations at or below level 4 of the McLean Scale over any part of their land. A breach of this rule is an offence under section 154 of the Biosecurity Act 1993.
Approved programmes may qualify for a subsidy under the HBRC pest control incentive scheme. If a landowner does not adhere to the rule or an approved management programme, under the Biosecurity Act 1993 Hawke’s Bay Regional Council may carry out control work and recover those costs from the landowner.
IMPORTANT: Rabbit Calicivirus Release – April 2018
The RHDV1-K5 has been approved for release, and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is one of the regional councils that will be making use of this tool to reduce numbers of wild rabbits on farm land. The release is timetabled for the week of 23 April 2018.
This is not a new virus; it is a strain of the virus already widespread in New Zealand but the new strain may overcome resistance to the old disease. RHDV1 only causes infection in the European rabbit which is designated a pest in Hawke’s Bay. Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research information is that no other animal has developed an infection from being exposed to RHDV1.
More information on RHDV1-K5 from Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, plus frequently asked questions - https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/science/plants-animals-fungi/animals/vertebrate-pests/biological-control-of-rabbits
Pet Rabbit Protection
Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and NZ Veterinary Association advice is for owners of pet rabbits to see their vet to get their pets vaccination. The existing vaccine works, however will take 10-14 days to take effect. Pet rabbits should be vaccinated or have a booster by6 April 2018.
Hawke’s Bay Regional Council is contacting vets and pet shops ahead of the release date to advise them of the date and encourage them to remind customers that the vaccine will work to protect against this new strain.
In addition to vaccination, the NZ Veterinary Association also recommends the following biosecurity measures for pet rabbit owners:
- Control insects (especially flies and fleas) as much as possible both indoors and outdoors. Flies are the main vector through which the virus is spread.
- Remove uneaten food on a daily basis.
- Keep your pet rabbit indoors where possible.
- Rabbit-proof your backyard to prevent access by wild rabbits.
- Regularly decontaminate equipment and materials (e.g. cages, hutches, bowls) with either 10% bleach or 10% sodium hydroxide. 10 minutes contact time is required, then rinse off.
- Limit contact with and handling of unfamiliar pet rabbits.
- Use good biosecurity measures (e.g. wash hands, shoes, clothing) after handling other people’s rabbits.
- Avoid cutting grass and feeding it to your rabbits if there is the risk of contamination from wild rabbits.
More information is available from the Veterinary Assoc on protecting pet rabbit breeds - http://www.nzva.org.nz/news/389789/Advice-for-pet-owners-on-protecting-their-pet-rabbits-from-RHDV1-K5-.htm