Controlling wild goats

Project to control wild goats in Makara and south-west Wellington.

Wild goats will be targeted across south-western Wellington

Wild goats will be targeted across south-western Wellington

Produced as part of Branch Out newsletter - Winter 2011

Project to control wild goats

The Council has secured three years of funding from the Department of Conservation to help stop wild goats destroying regenerating native bush in Makara and other parts of south-west Wellington.

The work is due to start in spring and will be carried out by professional hunters contracted to the Council. It will be done in stages over three years.

Council Pest Management Officer Justin McCarthy says the new project, which will involve working with private landowners, will allow real progress to be made in eliminating goats from certain areas - and keeping them goat-free.

''Feral goats are an introduced pest and need to be controlled to protect, restore and enhance the environment. Goats feed on everything they can reach, which destroys regenerating native vegetation and can cause erosion,'' Justin says.

The Council has been running its own control programme since 1997, but the programme became more coordinated and widespread when the Pest Management Plan was approved in 2004 and dedicated funding granted. Since then, intensive work on public reserve and boundary areas of private land has reduced goat numbers significantly. From 2005 until April 2011, 3,365 goats have been culled.

''However, the continual reinvasion of goats from private land means all the work we are doing is really just holding the line,'' Justin says.

''Without starting to manage these wild herds on private land properly, in theory we could be paying a contractor indefinitely to cull goats on public land with no end point in sight. That is why this project will be such a huge step forward,'' he says.

The areas covered will be in south-west Wellington (from Te Kopahou Reserve in the south, then west through Long Gully Station, Kinnoull Station and Terawhiti Station). It will also include rural Karori and Makara.

The funding means the Council can appoint a coordinator to work with the landowners and the Makara-Ohariu Community Board to gain support and permissions.

Major landowners, including Kinnoull Station, Long Gully Station, Terawhiti Farming Company and Meridian Energy, have already offered their support but the Council is also very keen to work with the owners of smaller blocks.

''This project will also provide us an opportunity to help landowners see what is ecologically important and suggest ways they can protect it,'' Justin says.

As the required permissions are gained, a phased eradication programme will start, based on ground and aerial hunting.

''We hope that advocacy, education and pressure from neighbours will help everyone to get on board. This project will ultimately help protect and restore the environment as well as create a platform for future biodiversity initiatives.''