NEW ZEALAND FUR COUNCIL

BACKGROUND

The New Zealand possum fur industry currently generates retail sales of possum-related garments of $100 million to $150 million per year. International tourists account for 85 percent of total retail sales. The industry employs about 1,500 workers.

In 2016 the industry is tracking 30 percent up on the back of a strong year for tourism. It is thought a boost in international travellers at Chinese New Year is key to this growth.

DOC uses a range of pest control measures to suppress possum populations in areas of high biodiversity. About 10 percent of the 8.5 million hectares of conservation land is currently under sustained possum control management using both poisoning and trapping techniques.

A MOU between the New Zealand Fur Council and the Department of Conservation was signed in April 2015. This came out of a recommendation from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment June 2013 on the use of 1080. (Recommendation 5: The Minister of Conservation asks the Department to prioritise the development of national policy and operational procedures on possum fur harvesting.)

THE CHALLENGE

The possum fur industry is experiencing exponential growth. The only thing that will limit this phenomenon is supply. It is estimated the current possum population is near 30 million.  To meet demand for possum fibre in coming years two million additional possums will need to be harvested.

Currently the government, with Forest and Bird and the Morgan Foundation is pushing to use more 1080 for pest control in what it is describing as mast years.

Reforms recently announced by Hon Nick Smith will see central government responsible for 1080 poison and pest control methods to try to make pest management consistent and save money. The proposals would mean the use of 1080, brodifacoum and rotenone would be covered by standard controls set by the Environmental Protection Authority, rather than having each regional council set their own pest control rules.

The Fur Council is concerned this approach may lead to more 1080 drops and less local consultation.

The Fur Council is not anti 1080 and sees its merits when used in hard to access areas but it is against drops in areas where hunting and trapping could be the main tool for pest control. When 1080 is used possums crawl into holes and die and fur cannot be harvested.

The Fur Council is concerned about being linked with anti 1080 lobby groups due to reputational issues.  The pro-1080 lobby is strong and it seems anecdotally there is more public acceptance for the poison especially with coordinated campaigns such as Battle for the Birds.

Battle for the Birds was launched in 2014 http://www.sciencemediacentre.co.nz/2014/01/30/1080-and-the-battle-for-our-birds-experts-respond/

http://www.1080facts.co.nz/battle-for-our-birds.html – It is said mast years happen every 15 years but we’ve had them in 2014 and another is predicted in 2016 – science???

In a pre-budget announcement on May 7, 2016 Conservation Minister Maggie Barry confirmed Battle for our Birds 2016 wwould receive $20.7 million in new operating funding for 2015/16 from this month’s Budget, helping to fight back against an expected pest population boom caused by a heavy forest seeding, or mast. https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/budget-2016-battle-our-birds-2016

It is interesting to note there is no mention of possums in any Battle of the Birds collateral.

The Fur Council needs to remain credible while challenging 1080 as the best tool for pest control.

OUR APPROACH

Push back with strong science and economic data. Investigate project to quantify economic value of possum hunting by comparison of methods such as 1080. Use a credible author and institution such as NZIER who did the white paper and Economic Impact of Possum Industry.

Communicate barriers to growth with in the Fur Industry including supply to relevant government Ministers, government departments and media.

Share the possum fur story.  Profile key players in the supply chain and pitch to media.

OUR SUCCESS

Increased and stable supply of possum fibre.

Less 1080 drops.

Increased public awareness of the unique attributes of possum fibre.

Positive media coverage of the possum fur industry and it’s importance to NZ Inc