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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

East Coast Rabbit Board — Grave Menace on Southern Border

East Coast Rabbit Board
Grave Menace on Southern Border

A discussion at a meeting of the Poverty Bay branch of the New Zealand Farmers' Union on 22 May, 1909, led to the formation of this board. Several members, especially W. Douglas Lysnar, stressed the fact that Hawke's Bay had become very badly infested. W. D. Lysnar, E. M. Hutchinson, J. C. Field and H. J. Telford made an extensive tour of the hinterland. Rabbits were found within 60 miles of Gisborne. The board first met on 30 March, 1910. Its initial members (all elected unopposed) were: W. D. Lysnar, J. C. Field and T. Holden (Gisborne), E. M. Hutchinson (Opotiki), and J. J. Parker (Wairoa). Mr. Lysnar was elected chairman. The Mohaka River was made the southern boundary and the Rangitaiki River the northern boundary.

The initial rate was ¼ d. in the £ over the whole district, but occupiers of areas classified as “infested areas” had to pay an additional one-sixteenth of a penny in the £. In 1912 the rating system was changed to that of payment per head of stock, each head of cattle being regarded as the equivalent of five sheep. Double the ordinary rate was then levied in the case of “infested areas,” but, in 1930, the surtax was dropped. The board's policy has been to employ a staff of rabbiters, as well as inspectors. For many years “kills” did not exceed more than a score per month on either boundary. Stock depastured in the board's district represents a sheep equivalent of about 7,000,000.

Up till the end of the 1930's the income from rates did not greatly exceed £2,000 per annum, and it was supplemented by a State subsidy of £ for £. In recent years, on account of the heavier infiltration of the pest from Hawke's Bay into the Mohaka-Wairoa area, more drastic measures have had to be taken, and now (1949) the rate is up to the legal limit, providing about £25,000 per annum, plus a State subsidy of a like amount.

Chairmen: W. D. Lysnar, 1910; E. M. Hutchinson, 1911–44; E. M. Monckton, 1944–. Secretaries: W. J. Hennessey, 1910–18; W. A. Robertson, 1918–25; R. W. J. Edwards, 1925–.