Pest Proof Fence
Sunday, August 23, 2015 at 5:20PM
Bill Barclay

As readers will be aware, when I consider a comment of sufficient merit, I lean toward bringing it forward as a post in order to achieve widest possible circulation. In the main, comments are only read at about 25% of the  reading rate of posts.

In this case I am bringing forward the comments of Geoffrey Robinson on the subject of the Pest Proof Fence that was slipped into the Coromandel Heritage Plan as a "signature conservation project" - with no acknowledgement that it was  indeed a highly controversial proposal that would immediately divide the community, and thus reduce the credibility of the proposal.

I do this without promoting, or detracting from the proposal - I simply believe that the document has to stand on its own merits, and if the author is so naive as to make this proposal with absolutely no qualification, then he deserves all that is coming by way of criticism. If Mr Adams was unaware of the hornet's nest he would stir by incorporating the proposal into the document, then he has simply underrated the intelligence of its readers. 

Here is Geoffrey's comment on the Coromandel Heritage Region post - directed at a commenter under the pseudonym of 'Toe-Rag":

Before sounding off on the long-discredited idea of a “pest-proof fence” across the northern Coromandel, "Toe Rag" might wish to avail himself of a few facts. Back when the fence proposal was last put forward in 2007 (not in the ‘90s as stated), the project was advanced by Environment Waikato, DOC and Moehau Environment Group. MEG was a regular recipient of major financial grants annually from both EW and DOC. According to official information obtained at the time, MEG agreed in closed meetings to be “the public face” of the fence plan and would administer its construction and management for an ongoing fee of 20 percent of the multimillion-dollar spend.

However, despite being promoted over several years, the fence plan came under widespread criticism from both the community and professionals for being both unfeasible and cost-prohibitive. In the definitive “Analysis of the Costs of Pest Control Options in the Northern Coromandel”, a report commissioned for MEG but not made public at the time, author Sandra Barns of the University of Waikato concluded that “where eradication is the chosen option, reinvasion will be inevitable.” In other words, the goal of total elimination of animal pests in the area proposed is not achievable.

In its comparison of costs for a fence versus a wide buffer zone, the Barns report went on to find that “the high establishment costs of the fence would never be made up over the lifetime of the fence”. The report concluded, “Where sustained control of pests is the chosen option, a pest-proof fence is not cost effective.” Even if the financially imprudent plan had proceeded, it is completely naive to suggest “DOC would have funded the project”. As has happened at the floundering Maungatautari “ecological island”, the bulk of the multimillion-dollar costs would have fallen squarely on Thames district and regional ratepayers.

Nowhere in New Zealand, and nowhere in the world for that matter, has a pest fence enclosed an area that includes hundreds of full-time and seasonal residents, working farms, businesses, reserves, campgrounds and sections. The idea of completely eliminating animal pests in such an area where hundreds of people enter and leave each day by vehicle, boat and air is ludicrous.

Beside cost and impracticality, in order to even attempt eradication, residents and visitors would have experienced imposition of a wide range of draconian restrictions, rules and obligations fundamentally altering the area’s traditional way of life and land use. By necessity these would have included everything from outlawing pets, to forced removal of stock, to regular and ongoing blanket use of 1080 toxin over the entire fenced area. As a result, the plan to fence off the peninsula at Colville was widely rejected by the bulk of the community that would have been “fenced in” -- including those who manage, own and successfully kaitiaki more than 8,000 hectares of the affected area – an overwhelming majority of the private land that would have been enclosed by the steel barrier. In the end, a well-intentioned but unrealistic, unaffordable, and socially destructive proposal to fence off the upper Coromandel was dropped.

The fact that this very same recycled “pest-proof fence” plan is now the first suggested “signature conservation project” in last week’s proposal to subject the Coromandel to the land classification rules of an overseas lobby group NGO, shows clearly how out of step its promoters are. The multinational tourist promotion company (and our district mayor) pushing the new designation either 1) forgot what the community and experts said about the Coromandel fence plan, or; 2) do not care what the community and experts said about the Coromandel fence plan, or; 3) have a long-term vision of clearing the upper Coromandel of residents.

 

Update on Monday, August 24, 2015 at 4:43PM by Registered CommenterBill Barclay

The response was not long coming - here is Toe-Rag's answer to Geoffrey R.

Unsure as to how long Mr Robinson has been on the Peninsula, but when I was up and around Colville in the early '90's there was a proposal for a predator proof fence from low tide on the Waikawau side crossing to low tide on the Colville side. There was , from memory, a sample of the proposed fence which somehow was uncremoniously chainsawed down. I seem to recall that the posts were bought from the Ward's mill at the time and the netting from China and DOC was footing the bill.

Not sure if the writer is aware of Tawharanui Regional park [ARC] which is widely used by local residents, visitors alike and they all have to drive through a section of the predator proof fence with two gates to be activated , apparently without any of the problems as posed by Mr Robinson.

Mangatatari 'ecological island' is now a very successful conservation area with amazing results, particularily in the various breeding programmes in place. The total enclosed area is 3400ha, with the longest predator proof fence in the world. 'Floundering', I don't think so.

A golden opportunity was lost back in the '90's but there is nothing to say that it could not be resurrected and I am sure the locals would support a predator free area [and presumably no more 1080 drops!] and the employment opportunities would be tremendous, not forgetting the downstream effects of accommodation, improved roads, visitor spend in the area etc.

The last sentence of 'Yeah Right' is bang on the money!!!

 

 


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