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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Contractor Industry that Underpins a National-Scale Pest Control Programme

  • Author(s): Warburton, Bruce
  • Hall, Matthew
  • et al.

In New Zealand, bovine tuberculosis is a major problem for livestock industries (i.e., dairy, beef, and deer). The disease is managed by TBfree New Zealand (formerly the Animal Health Board) under a National Pest Management Plan with a fixed annual budget of about $53 million. The strategy used to reduce herd infection involves: 1) herd testing and slaughter to remove infection from herds, 2) herd movement controls to minimise the risk of TB being spread between farms, and 3) control of the key wildlife TB vector, the brushtail possum. The management of brushtail possums is the most costly of the three strategy components, and those costs have driven the development of a highly cost-effective possum control contracting industry. Development of an integrated TB management programme involving possum control contractors has required: 1) a defined control target/threshold density for possums that requires numbers be reduced to and maintained at or below for five-seven years for TB to be eliminated, 2) an industry-accepted method for independently assessing whether the control target has been achieved, and 3) training and certification of contractors to independently monitor the possom control contractors. The successful implementation of these three requirements has enabled the industry to develop a performance-based control contract system in which control contractors get paid only if they achieve the required trap-catch target (i.e., contractors take all the risk). PDA/GPS systems with related online databases have been developed to support the management and auditing of contractors, and to capture data about both spatial coverage and control of possums (about 30,000 point data collected per month). The effectiveness of this integrated vector-control programme has enabled more than 1.5 million hectares to be declared TB-free, and reduced infected herds from about 1,700 in the early 1990s to 35 by February 2016.

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