The Government decided to fund rabbit and land management plans for farmers in the high country of the South Island’s McKenzie Country where rabbits had become bait-shy and were breeding in plague numbers.
I had personally experienced walking out on the Pukaki flats near Twizel, clapping my hands and watching the whole hillside move as the hundreds of thousands of rabbits ran in all directions at the intrusion. It was an amazing example of how an introduced species could take over and totally devastate a landscape in a very short period of time through their renowned breeding prowess.
I developed six different farm plans for High Country Run owners in the Twizel area of the McKenzie Country and, in retrospect, believe the planning process was useful to all of them; changing their view of the rabbit problem from just being a pest control issue towards being more a matter of changing their whole farming systems to farm more sustainably in the presence of a rabbit problem. The biggest challenge in the planning process was changing farmers’ attitudes rather than just killing rabbits.
In the end the whole Rabbit and Land Management Programme was overtaken by the illegal introduction of Rabbit Calcivirus Disease into the area from Australia ,but those farmers that had committed to farm plans were in a much better position to take advantage of the wholesale deaths of the rabbits through their planning process, which had identified the best areas for re-development based on a better understanding of their soils and landscapes.
These farmers learnt how to manage their pest problem better utilising the principles of identifying the priority issues, seeking information about resources and alternatives, and then putting the ideas into practice.
Forward planning greatly assisted those farmers with plans to rapidly put back into commercial production, rabbit damaged land.
As with all aspects of an enterprise, forward planning is a functional tool.