Fence the latest tool in the war on wallabies

Construction of a wallaby exclusion fence is the latest development in South Canterbury’s war on wallabies. The 48km wallaby exclusion fence aims to contain the spread of these pests and protect the Mackenzie Basin environment.

The fence will follow the western border of Canterbury’s wallaby containment area, along the Tekapo/Takapō River system from Lake Benmore through to Lake Tekapo/Takapō. For most of its length, the new fence will replace an existing rabbit-proof one that is over 50-years old and needs upgrading.

Protecting the Mackenzie landscape

Over the past 10 years, wallabies have been spreading out of the containment zone and into the Mackenzie Basin, and we can’t afford to let them spread and establish further. 

"We’ve seen a significant increase in wallaby reports, and numbers destroyed, in the area. Alongside other control methods, the fence will be a crucial for securing containment and reducing further spread," said Wallaby Programme Leader Brent Glentworth.

Once in place we can focus on progressively reducing the area, alongside some continued surveillance and follow up work outside it.

Building the fence in stages

Fence construction will take place in stages over a few years, starting with a 15km section from Grays River north towards Lake Tekapo/Takapō, with two local firms engaged to carry out the first stage.

Community consultation will take place around the fence alignment at the Lake Tekapo/Takapō end, although construction of that stage is not expected to happen for two years.

Government-funded tool

Wallabies have a reputation for damaging normal farm fences as they attempt to push through or go under them.

The new fence will be 1.3m high constructed with purpose built Australian-made wallaby exclusion netting, with an apron to prevent them passing beneath it. It will also be rabbit netted, allowing continued management of this pest as well.

According to Glentworth it’s important to use every tool available in the battle against wallabies.

"The work under the national programme is more than just having teams in the air and on the ground carrying out control and surveillance. It's also tackling the wallaby problem by investing heavily in research and improving wallaby detection at very low levels while exploring new and improved control methods.

"Fencing will play a critical role in providing a secure boundary 24 hours a day so we can progressively reduce densities within containment and eliminate the spread on the other side. A similar fence design has been used near Rotorua to progress work on their wallaby issue. It’s fantastic we have the opportunity to do this for South Canterbury thanks to the national programme."

The project is expected to cost $1.4m and is being funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries-led Tipu Mātoro National Wallaby Eradication Programme. It’s estimated that the economic impact of letting wallabies spread unchecked could cost the country up to $84M a year by 2025.