Shoppers can support local pest control and the environment by buying the beautiful possum products that would normally be sold to overseas tourists.
That is the plea of Scott Candy of Okaihau, who is the Basically Bush fibre procurement manager for New Zealand. He manages a network of 14 agents throughout the country while looking after the Northland region for Basically Bush, buying fur on a circuit from Okaihau to Whangārei to Dargaville and Kaikohe.
Candy said few people realised the impact of hunters and the possum fur business.
"In Northland people hunt all year round and we buy 10 to 12 tonnes of possum fur a year from them that is used in New Zealand knitwear factories. That amounts to about 150,000 possums a year.
"If hunters weren't out there targeting possums, our bush would be completely overrun or the bush would be bombarded with toxins to control them,'' he said.
He said before the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, hunters were realising up to $125 per kg of possum fur. One kg comprises the plucked fur from about 20 possums.
With the border restrictions halting the tourism trade and affecting demand for possum products, the price has fallen to about $90 per kg.
"We urge New Zealanders to get behind the possum fur business by buying the beautiful warm and fashionable items produced by New Zealand knitwear factories like possum fur gloves, socks and double-sided jerseys that are a combination of possum and merino.
"That would make a huge difference to our industry, which is helping our environment by keeping pest numbers down,'' he said.
Candy said anyone could get in on the hunting action.
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"We've got schoolkids, women and old fellas. It's a case of knocking on farmers' doors to get access to their properties,'' he said.
Candy has been hunting since he was a youngster and earned the money for his first vehicle from possum hunting.
"The market did crash about 10 years ago but has been good ever since.
Hunters use a variety of methods, including poisoning and shooting. Most professional hunters used plucking machines.
"It doesn't really matter as long as the plucked possum fur is presented clean and dry.''
The knitwear mills preferred longer fur, which was produced during winter.
"The possum fur in the South Island is often longer but it also tends to be darker.
"Northland fur is lighter in colour so it is more easily dyed,'' he said.
Candy said he bought some by the kilogram and bigger operators provided fur in 40kg bags.
He said before the Covid-19 lockdown, some knitting mills were also buying possum skins for use as fur linings on hooded garments.
In Northland possums were easily tracked by their dining habits, Candy said.
"The next three months they will be in the pine trees and in spring, from October to December they will be found in poplars and willows.
"In January and February, they like to eat grass and other native trees and then in March and April they will head for native fruiting trees like totara and kahikatea.
"They move around in a definite cycle according to what's available. They really prefer the pasture margins where they can get a good variation of food,'' he said.
Candy said all pests were now worth hunting for money.
"They are all a resource for the pet food industry.
"Turkeys are worth about $3.50 per kg, peacocks are about $4/kg. Rabbits are $3.50/kg and hares are $8 each."
There has also been a good market for goats, he said.
Hunters supplying meat needed to go through an application process to the companies involved.
Predator control efforts for Northland have been boosted with a $6 million funding announcement from Predator Free 2050 and the Provincial Growth Fund this month.
Predator Free Whangārei is a large-scale community-led project aiming to eradicate pests from the region.
Candy encouraged people to get involved in possum eradication and, for those who get funding, not to waste the possum fur and carcasses.
"The environment will be better for it,'' he said.