Surveillance by Waikato Regional Council shows there is unlikely to be an established population of wallabies in the Mōkau area.
In July this year, a landowner’s find of a female wallaby with a broken hind leg and a joey in her pouch sparked a two-month operation to understand the extent of the find, although it was highly likely the wallaby got there with human assistance.
Senior Biosecurity Officer Dave Byers, who leads the Waikato Regional Council’s wallaby control programme, says while Mōkau is far away from where wallabies are currently found, the council is responsible for investigating all reports of wallabies in its region and that comes at a cost.
Waikato Regional Council, in partnership with Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Department of Conservation, Land Information NZ and mana whenua, is working to stop wallabies from spreading as part of the Tipu Mātoro National Wallaby Eradication Programme led by Biosecurity New Zealand. The long-term aim is to eradicate all wallabies from New Zealand.
“We ended up spending about $40,000 and shifting resources to verify that there are no wallaby populations in the Mōkau area just because someone thought it would be a good idea to relocate one,” says Mr Byers. “That is time and money that could be better spent in controlling wallabies where they actually are.
“We had surveillance dogs cover an area of nearly 4000 hectares and they walked a total of 453 kilometres over 11 days. From that, we got just one weak indication from a dog in the first couple of days.
“Trail cameras were set up for about six weeks within 200 hectares or so where the wallaby was found and where we had the indication from the dog, but they came up with nothing.”
The council will continue to undertake surveillance periodically in the Mōkau area just to be sure there are no signs of wallaby.
Wallabies are classified as an Unwanted Organism under the Biosecurity Act. It is illegal to have, hold, move or transport wallabies in New Zealand without a specific permit. Those who do can face significant penalties. As an individual, you can be fined up to $100,000 and/or sent to prison for up to five years.
Wallabies have been expanding their range and, if left unchecked, it has been conservatively estimated that one third of the North Island could be subjected to the impacts of wallabies in less than 50 years.
Wallabies are a significant pest threatening our native and exotic forests as well as pasture. They eat seedlings, grass and crops, causing costly losses to forestry and farming by competing for pasture with stock and damaging forestry seedlings. They also target the same native plant species as deer, so the combined impact of both animals on long term health and structure of native forests and our biodiversity can be dramatic.
More information on the long-term management of wallabies in areas where they are established can be found here.
Anyone who sees a wallaby in the wild anywhere in New Zealand should report it to www.reportwallabies.nz.