Thursday 3 December 2009

DoC disappointments

I'm not surprised that New Zealand's Department of Conservation continues to do its best to stymie Roger Beattie's efforts to farm weka for meat. Beattie has been breeding weka on his farm near Christchurch. The bird is endangered on the New Zealand mainland but plentiful to the point of being a pest on the Chatham Islands, where Beattie worked a long time back. And Beattie's had to fight DoC every step of the way in his private conservation efforts. Beattie's current plan:
Beattie believes conservation and business go hand-in-hand. He said if there was money to be made from an endangered species, it would never die out.

Beattie said DOC's control of bird species created a protracted permit process that strangled entrepreneurial enthusiasm.

If approved for commercial farming, Beattie planned to sell weka breeding pairs to farmers and lifestyle-land owners. He estimated the birds could return $2000 per hectare.

Beattie, who has about 30-plus birds, said weka bred prolifically in the right conditions, hatching up to three clutches of four or five eggs annually, with birds ready for the table at four months.

"There are a number of natural species we harvest and farm, and birds are no different," he said.
I am surprised that DoC's excuses are so, well, horribly lame.
DOC Canterbury conservator Mike Cuddihy said the proposal raised questions, and that there were no precedents. Buff weka were protected, yet extinct, in mainland New Zealand, but could be killed and eaten on the Chatham Islands, where populations were at pest levels.

"Buff weka have a curious juxtaposition of status between mainland New Zealand and the Chathams," he said. "Breeding for consumption in mainland New Zealand is something that goes beyond anything we have contemplated, and there are no precedents that I am aware of."
Why can't Roger sell breeding pairs of an endangered species that he's raised himself? Because it would "raise questions". The question it raises for me is whether DoC's opposition is largely based on not wanting to be shown up by a private entrepreneur. They may well not want that kind of precedent. After all, what would happen to DoC's funding if private folks were allowed to save endangered species?

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