Two wild rabbits found on a farm near Rotorua have tested positive for a new strain of the calicivirus disease in the Bay of Plenty.

The test on rabbits found on a Rotoehu farm was the second time the strain had been confirmed in New Zealand after a single wild rabbit found in Marlborough in May also tested positive.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council biosecurity manager Greg Corbett said landowners will be happy about a new strain helping them in their war against wild rabbits.

However, he said pet rabbit owners may be concerned and advised them to talk to their vets.


"It is not uncommon for new strains to spread, and a rabbit owner's best defence is to make sure their pets are up to date with their vaccinations," Corbett said.

Called RHDV2, the new strain is widespread in Europe, but until recently it had not been found in New Zealand.

Pet rabbit owners can also protect against the virus by limiting their contact with wild rabbits.

There are a number of practical steps rabbit owners can take to minimise the risk to their rabbits:

•Keep them separate from wild rabbits.
•Wash hands between handling rabbits.
•Control insects around pet rabbits as they can spread the virus between rabbits.
•Avoid cutting grass and feeding it to pet rabbits.
•Thoroughly clean and disinfect cages and equipment.
Talk with your vet or refer to further information on Ministry of Primary Industry's website.