Envirologue by Dave Hansford

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Envirologue: Branding a Post-Predator Dream – the Language of Extirpation

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  • Idiot Savant,

    That’s because one person’s pest is another’s recreational resource, stuffed trophy or even their prime income.

    Or family. Just to make it clear what's on the line here.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1716 posts Report Reply

  • izogi,

    Thanks for writing this, David.

    I've become faintly optimistic seeing the recent proposals for a predator free New Zealand. As recently as a few years ago, even suggesting such an idea would immediately attract derision about it being an impossibility due to the scale. But now there are actual numbers being thrown around for particular outcomes (most recently about $9 billion), which can be analysed and criticised. A point being made behind that link isn't about reselling the dawn chorus so much as it is arging that $9 billion for eradication of "pests" is cheaper than the $16 billion which might be spent on fighting agricultural pests in more traditional ways over the same period. It's useful just to have a baseline for discussion.

    But yes, it's far more complex than simply saying "do it", paying up and expecting some undefined consequence which everyone imagines in their own head. Gareth Morgan's also right to point out that the public really needs to buy into the idea in lifestyle as much as financially. That could take generational changes.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1141 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    I can’t understand why Gareth Morgan has taken this line about urban moggies. Feral cats, cats in reserve areas (or adjoining reserves) are one thing, but city cats are another. Why antagonise people like this? We know there’s evidence of net benefit to birdlife from pet cats in some urban areas because they kill rats. Even if they didn’t, do the cats do more harm to the native ecology and environment than the humans who live there?

    Urban development and industrial-style monocultural farming have to take their share of blame for wrecking habitats and creating conditions hostile to our remaining native creatures.

    Water pollution and the increased siphoning of available freshwater for irrigation signs the death warrant for species who need that habitat.

    Not to mention 4WD enthusiasts who insist on driving on beaches and in riverbeds.

    Humans are quite the pest species.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    Let's park the moggy business for a little while. Because if we are planning to fight a war on pests, then we'll need to mobilise an army to do it - which we can't afford. Unless we introduce conscription - why not have every 18 year old spend 12 months in a conservation army. Imagine 70,000 plus young people trapping, poisoning, shooting, cleaning, replanting, weeding, spying on dirty dairying, standing sentry on individual Kakapo...

    AND in their spare time they could learn civics, visit old people, discover how to get on with a cross section of their fellow citizens, eat properly, get fit, and even get taught a bit of discipline.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Lilith __,

    Humans are quite the pest species

    So the question is, do you want to restore the ecology to its original state? If the answer is yes then you probably have to eliminate humans from the environment as well.

    Given that is unlikely to be a viable option the question becomes where on the scale from "no humans" to "no wildlife" to we want to be.

    I don't think absolute arguments are helpful, predator free makes a nice slogan but it is completely unrealistic and unlikely to be either necessary or sufficient. Predator free is not going to help if we are also habitat free.

    As Lilith points out urban cats are probably irrelevant to our native forest estates. And targeting them simply makes most folks dismiss the rest of your thesis.

    A far bigger problem is continued reduction in government funding for agencies that
    a) do the research to figure out the best conservation approaches
    and b) enact those policies
    All paid for by taxation that people are constantly trying to reduce.

    The problem isn't making NZ predator free, the problem is even retaining the funding to do what little we do now let alone improve the efforts to eradicate the obvious first candidates.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    How about we also plant a bit of cotton (I'm sure someplace in NZ has the climate for it) and set up an antebellum style system of agriculture using teenagers in place of Black people. Teach em a bit of respect...

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Lilith __,

    Feral cats, cats in reserve areas (or adjoining reserves) are one thing, but city cats are another.

    I guess it can also come down to what sort of environments people want to live in, with or without dedicated reserves nearby.

    When living in Melbourne I noticed how common it is for municipalities to have strict rules about cat management, and that’s just an accepted part of life there. It’s not because there are reserves, but to create an environment where native wildlife can thrive in people’s back yards. Doormat sized dogs also seem very popular, perhaps (I’m guessing) to fill a gap which New Zealanders often fill with cats.

    Anyway, I’m very fortunate to live in part of Wellington which, thanks to reserves and much town belt pest control, community back yard pest control, and habitat nearby, has a relatively thriving native bird life. We get Tui and Bellbirds and Kereru and Kaka frequently, and that’s something you don’t get anywhere near as much in other parts of town. But just around the corner from here, behind Ngaio, is a new sign noting how a kaka nest (still rare outside the fenced sanctuary) was attacked several weeks ago by a dog that wasn’t on a leash. Once again this whole thing really relies on people both understanding and wanting to participate.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1141 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    ...why not have every 18 year old spend 12 months in a conservation army. Imagine 70,000 plus young people trapping, poisoning, shooting, cleaning, replanting, weeding, spying on dirty dairying, standing sentry on individual Kakapo…

    AND in their spare time they could learn civics, visit old people

    You floated something like this a while back. As I recall it involved kitting out a younger male member of your extended whanau in lederhosen & lemon squeezer, with flow-on values of identity, self-worth, etc.

    Couched in the right phraseology it could be the kind of thing that Creative NZ might get behind. But please, for pity's sake, wait until us old people have died off.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    Cats or wildlife?

    Sorry but thats a false dichotomy.
    And while I agree with Gareth Morgan about cats being registered. There are already people who take matters into their own hands, and not in a good way

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • Yamis,

    My dad was on the DOC board in the late 90s. He left the board after a year saying to me that it was (to paraphrase) an under funded shambles. He was in a similar role in the ARC at the time (and for many years before and after) and I think the difference between the two organisations was stark. When I have the misfortune (or fortune because some of the scenes are awesome) to walk/run DOC tracks in the Waitaks I see first hand how what sort of funding they get. Bring a machete, a spade, wheelbarrow, a cubic metre of gravel, and a helicopter to rescue you once you’ve fallen off a cliff or broken your leg in half when you step in a 1m deep gouged out trough in the middle of the track.

    This view here, been past the spot a few times now, the track from Te Henga to Constable Rd at Muriwai in sections looks like it hasn’t seen maintenance for a decade and counting….

    http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/places-to-go/auckland/places/muriwai-and-te-henga-area/tracks/te-henga-walkway/

    Admittedly though, pest control is WAY more important than poncy walker/ trail ‘joggers’ like myself. Jog on.

    PS. I decided when I was in my late teens I would grow trees and sell them on trade me. So me and a mate collected a whole lot of Canary Is. date palm berries from some trees (over the road from the Parnell rose gardens off the top of my head) and grew hundreds (they grew like weeds). I had about 100 of them ready to off load when dad says they’re a pest, wood pigeons and other birds are crapping the seeds out in the Waitaks and they’re seeding. My conscience got the better of me and I burnt the lot of them. Literally :( I then turned my attention to Nikau’s and potted up and sold a few hundred on Trade Me. Hopefully the IRD doesn’t go back a decade on TM :)

    What annoys me is driving along places like Central Park Drive around Trusts stadium and seeing huge date palms planted along there. At least it’s better than parts of East Auckland. Where in f*cks name do they think they live?! Miami!!!!!

    Since Nov 2006 • 903 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Lilith __,

    I can’t understand why Gareth Morgan has taken this line about urban moggies. Feral cats, cats in reserve areas (or adjoining reserves) are one thing, but city cats are another. Why antagonise people like this?

    We joined the Halo protect, which was set up by Gareth Morgan. The idea is that each Halo household provides a preditor free enviroment in there own back yard. The project was originally organized around Karori, close to the bird reserve fence.

    The bird reserve is not a Zoo. It is a native wildlife incubator. The Halo project is all about protecting birds, lizards and there habitats. What Garreth Morgan is doing is no more provocative than the next door neighbor breeding preditors, and allowing them to stalk vulnerable birds and lizards that Halo family’s are trying to protect. How would you like it if your next door neighbor alowed there dog to kill your cat?

    We know there’s evidence of net benefit to birdlife from pet cats in some urban areas because they kill rats. Even if they didn’t, do the cats do more harm to the native ecology and environment than the humans who live there?

    I think the evidence that trapping, poisoning and professional shooting is more affective, than trying to justify the damage that feral cats do.

    I like cats. They give my pleasure. But I’m with Gareth Morgan when he engorages the people to at least talk about managing these pets in a way that respects the rights of other people who might live next door.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4442 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    sobering stuff...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7948 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    How about we also plant a bit of cotton (I'm sure someplace in NZ has the climate for it) and set up an antebellum style system of agriculture using teenagers in place of Black people.

    Because my idea is JUST LIKE slavery.

    You idiot.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Yamis,

    I then turned my attention to Nikau’s and potted up and sold a few hundred on Trade Me. Hopefully the IRD doesn’t go back a decade on TM :)

    Carbon credits?

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4442 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Yamis,

    My dad was on the DOC board in the late 90s. He left the board after a year saying to me that it was (to paraphrase) an under funded shambles.

    I wouldn’t disagree with this, but DOC in the 90s was a mess as a whole. (It’s hard to say it wasn’t when it killed 14 people through an accident that revealed a disconnected shambles with incompetence for expected responsibilities at multiple levels.) I don’t know if it’s fair to judge today’s DOC on 90s DOC, though. I’ll never assume that DOC’s perpetually in good hands, but I quite like Lou Sanson’s outlook on things. He’s different from Al Morrison who he recently replaced.

    There was that recent hammering of DOC by the Ombudsman for ignoring its own Management Plan, and all of the recent public consultation that went with it, but from what I’ve heard the culture from the top has been changing since then, even if it's still under lots of strain from Morrison's restructuring. I guess time will tell.

    Admittedly though, pest control is WAY more important than poncy walker/ trail ‘joggers’ like myself. Jog on.

    Is it? I think pest control’s more important overall, but as someone who spends a fair amount of time in the conservation estate, I don’t think DOC should be neglecting its other legislated responsibilities of fostering recreation, just to put pest control first. There are good reasons for fostering recreation, and DOC has it in its mandate because it inherited those responsibilities from other entities which were doing it until they were dissolved in 1987. To me it’s more a case of DOC simply being underfunded for everything it needs to do. If it’s appropriate to provide more resources for pest control, then we should be assessing everywhere it could come from – not just other sources within DOC’s existing budget.

    On the recreation side, though, it’s good to see DOC taking some serious steps to let volunteers get involved again, like with its support for the Outdoor Recreation Consortium. Since building and workplace law changes in about the mid-90s and until recently, DOC’s been fairly paranoid about letting volunteers do anything significant on the conservation estate (track maintenance, hut maintenance, bridge maintenance) without mountains of paperwork and acceptance of liability, which for most potential volunteers made it completely impractical.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1141 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to steven crawford,

    We joined the Halo protect, which was set up by Gareth Morgan.

    Do the traps basically kill stuff, or are there alternatives? We recently shifted to Crofton Downs (on the far side of Otari Wilton's) and I've been thinking about joining. The neighbourhood still seems to have a few cats, though, and I don't want to burn too many bridges too quickly.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1141 posts Report Reply

  • Johnny Canuck, in reply to Yamis,

    the track from Te Henga to Constable Rd at Muriwai in sections looks like it hasn’t seen maintenance for a decade and counting….

    It recently benefited from some modest maintenance in advance of the Hillary Ultra Marathon (mostly hacking back the flaxes that were overgrowing the trail in many places) ... but yeah, it's getting rougher by the month through there - and the chances of turning an ankle (or plummeting off a cliff) are increasingly accordingly.

    Vancouver BC • Since Feb 2013 • 25 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    I'm not the one who suggested forcing (through the threat of violence, on which all public coercion ultimately rests) "every 18 year old [to] spend 12 months in a conservation army" .

    That sounds like involuntary servitude to me, however you spell it.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • izogi,

    In related news, Simon Mercep interviewed Dr Mike Dickison a few minutes ago about the charismatic side of conservation, who pointed out some of the issues around us being obsessed with saving the cute birds at the expense of real biodiversity and uniqueness. He also makes some interesting points about how the current system of corporate sponsorship can potentally be unhelpful overall when it binds public funds to topping up the majority of a specific programme when that public money might be better spent elsewhere.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1141 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to izogi,

    Do the traps basically kill stuff, or are there alternatives?

    Our trap killed a stoat. The traps can't hurt cats, which is good becouse the Halo project is not about that. An alternative to killing pest animals might be to build a preditor fence, which would be a fun thing to do in suburbia.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4442 posts Report Reply

  • Yamis, in reply to Johnny Canuck,

    the track from Te Henga to Constable Rd at Muriwai in sections looks like it hasn’t seen maintenance for a decade and counting….

    It recently benefited from some modest maintenance in advance of the Hillary Ultra Marathon (mostly hacking back the flaxes that were overgrowing the trail in many places) … but yeah, it’s getting rougher by the month through there – and the chances of turning an ankle (or plummeting off a cliff) are increasingly accordingly.

    I’ve ‘run’, and I use that term very loosely the Speights West Coaster which goes along the track a few times now and it’s in a hell of a state in parts. I know the organisers themselves hacked back the flax a few days out from the race a couple of years ago. On last years run the guy in front of me did the classic step on flax with one leg, step into it with the other and fell face first down the adjacent bank. He was fine.

    The stairs down from Constable Rd would have cost a fair whack to put in, so that’s something…

    Since Nov 2006 • 903 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Attachment

    Bloody looxury lad...

    I do think that by building wooden boardwalks a metre wide and fitted with handrails over a large chunk of the conservation estate, DoC have created an expectation that everywhere will comply with this minimum standard.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    I do think that by building wooden boardwalks a metre wide and fitted with handrails over a large chunk of the conservation estate, DoC have created an expectation that everywhere will comply with this minimum standard.

    If you don't mind me asking, which chunks are you thinking of?

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1141 posts Report Reply

  • Amanda Wreckonwith, in reply to izogi,

    Do the traps basically kill stuff, or are there alternatives?

    From a rural perspective, live trapping is problematic. Feral cats are very nasty critters indeed. Live capture leaves you with a spitfire of fur, teeth and claws that bears no resemblance to Tibbles in a cat basket.
    With the tabby tornado trapped in a wire cage you are faced with the decision of what to do next. A 2 hour round trip to the SPCA hoping that they will take said intern (they are not happy to be presented with feral cats)? A similar trip to the local vet for euthanasia (with not insubstantial costs incurred)? Or dispatch the offender yourself?
    Killing a cat in a cage is a horrible task - a .22 will do the trick but its not a simple thing to do. Some have told me that they dunk the cat cage and contents underwater to drown the cat (inhumane and likely illegal). Others have suggested using car exhaust carbon monoxide - somehow cooling the gasses before they are administered (again - likely illegal).
    So we are back to kill traps - which are also not infallible in their actions - I've found mangled cats in traps that bled to death rather than being cleanly dispatched. Setting a trap is a skilled job.

    Sorting out the feral cat issue in NZ will be a long and expensive process. I favour the approach of regulation of breeding, keeping and sale of cats.

    1. All pet cats must be neutered and microchipped.
    2. Cats can only be sold by licensed breeders
    3. All cats for sale must be neutered, microchipped and new owners placed on a register.
    4. Any cat trapped that is not microchipped should be euthanised (unless the cat owning community can organise a fund that pays for the cats to be desexed/microchipped/rehoused)

    Since Sep 2012 • 171 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Amanda Wreckonwith,

    Cool. Yeah, I phrased badly but also thanks. I’m not too concerned about traps which kill commonly accepted predators. More about a trap in my back-yard accidentally dispatching all of the neighbours valued feline family members from all sides. Whatever I might think of domestic cats, I don’t really want to got down that track. :) From what Steven said it sounds as if the traps available through Halo have some aversion to cats, so I might investigate further. It’s not too clear from Halo’s website whether they put cats at risk.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1141 posts Report Reply

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