Goats Have to Go

20 March 2012

A three-year project to control feral goats on over 12,000 hectares of rural hill country and coastal land in south-west Wellington gets under way next month.

Wellington's number-one animal pest - feral goats

Wellington's number-one animal pest - feral goats

The project is a partnership between private landowners, Wellington City Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Meridian Energy Ltd and the Makara-Ohariu Community Board, with major funding from the Department of Conservation's biodiversity funds.

Amber Bill, the Council's Community Engagement and Reserves Manager, says feral goats are Wellington's number one animal pest, even ahead of possums.

"Goats eat an amazing amount of everything. Some people say they're helpful for weed control but if there's a more palatable plant around, they're going to favour that."

The aim is to eradicate feral goats in the south-west of the city. In the first year we'll concentrate on the Outer Green Belt and adjoining private land and over the following two years progressively move across areas including Kinnoull and Terawhiti stations, and Meridian's West Wind farm at Makara.

"It's very difficult to fence goats in so we have goats having free range across much of south-west Wellington. They also breed quickly and they start breeding young. So all of that put together makes them a major pest," says Amber.

There are thousands of goats in this area partly due to the collapse of the goat farming industry in the '80s. The goats have been destroying natural areas and biodiversity, and we need to protect what little remains of the original forest and coastal vegetation and allow regeneration to take place.

Project coordinator, Trent Oakley, says the control work will be carried out by a professional animal control firm and will be well-organised, safe and humane.

"It will be done in stages over the next three years and involves aerial culling first followed by team hunting on the ground using trained dogs. This initial work will be backed up by ongoing surveillance and monitoring."

Mr Oakley has worked on other Council land, where goats have been successfully controlled, and has seen the environment come back to life.

"Now at Te Kopahau, where we used to be able to walk without bending over, you now can't even crawl because the re-growth is so phenomenal - it's great."

Work areas will be clearly marked while hunting takes place.